N.H. lawmaker accused of starting ‘Red Pill’ forum on Reddit won’t resign
On Tuesday, New Hampshire state Representative Robert Fisher was unmasked as an architect of a men’s rights Web page where he is accused of strategizing about how to seduce women in an age of feminism and denounced claims of rape as false.
On Wednesday, he rejected calls to resign, blamed fake news, and held himself out as a symbol of the downtrodden man.
“Here’s my message to the public: I am not disappearing,” Fisher said in a statement circulated to reporters. “I will continue to stand strong for men’s rights and the rights of all.”
Fisher, 31, a two-term representative from Laconia, did not respond to messages from the Globe on Wednesday as his story ricocheted around the world. In New Hampshire, Democrats pounced on the issue, demanding he resign, and even fellow Republicans called for him to step down, with Governor Chris Sununu calling his comments “horrendous and repulsive.”
House Speaker Shawn Jasper said he was “sickened by what I read.”
“Actions such as this overshadow all of the good that the majority of our members do while serving in the NH House,” Jasper said in a statement.
Fisher did not see it that way.
“I’m disappointed that this sort of attack has replaced real news, but it strengthens my position and resolve that fighting for equal rights is more important today than ever,” Fisher wrote in an e-mail reported by WMUR. “Some in the media seem to enjoy trying to make big issues from out-of-context quotes and wielding them to try and destroy their political adversaries rather than shining light on the underlying tough issues people face.”
Those “underlying tough issues” focus on the risk of being accused of rape in consensual sexual encounters, according to the men who post on the forum attributed to Fisher.
The furor over Fisher began Tuesday, when the website The Daily Beast tagged him as a founder of the Red Pill, a page hosted on the news site Reddit that claims nearly 200,000 subscribers and promotes itself as a “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.”
The site linked Fisher’s usernames on the Red Pill to his previous blogs and his first campaign website. Though he initially denied his role in the forum to The Daily Beast, he did not repeat that denial to New Hampshire reporters, instead saying some comments had been taken ‘‘out of context.’’
On Wednesday, he acknowledged to WMUR that he wrote “some injudicious things about the opposite sex following a bad breakup” but said the comments attributed to him by the Daily Beast were untrue or taken out of context.
The main premise of the forum, though, is that women have taken over society and that men have been silenced.
“We no longer run the show,” an early post attributed to Fisher says, calling feminism a “sexual strategy.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I think women are capable. My sisters, and my mother are very smart individuals. But a majority of women never developed these traits, and they don’t need to,” said one post attributed to Fisher by The Daily Beast. “I don’t hate women. I just understand what use they are to me,” the post continued. “Stimulating conversation is not one of them.”
In another post attributed to Fisher, he considered rape from the rapist’s perspective.
“I’m going to say it. Rape isn’t an absolute bad, because the rapist I think probably likes it a lot. I think he’d say it’s quite good, really,” the Daily Beast reported.
Lengthy posts attributed to Fisher by The Daily Beast dwell on his fears of being wrongly accused of rape and urging men to take steps to protect themselves against such claims — such as recording video of all sexual encounters to be used as evidence.
“It is a despicable site. His word and his intention are reprehensible,” said Jennifer Horn, the former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, which also urged him to step down.
Beyond the posts, though, she said she found his response “even more appalling.”
“He tried to make himself the victim of this in some way,” Horn said. “This is not a free speech issue. This is not a partisan issue. This is not an issue about fairness for men. It is completely an issue about violence against women.”
The unwelcome revelations came on a day that New Hampshire legislators were already thinking about rape. The House Judiciary Committee was poised to vote on a bill aimed at strengthening the state’s “rape shield” law that prevents defendants from using a victim’s sexual history as evidence in court. Advocates did not expect the bill to make it out of committee Tuesday. It ultimately passed 11-4, according to the Concord Monitor.
That same day, a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control showed that New Hampshire ranked among the worst states in the nation for sexual violence; more than 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, according to the most recent data.
Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, praised elected officials for calling for Fisher’s resignation, saying “his actions were beyond insidious — creating these forums to essentially incite sexual violence against girls and women.”
“Representative Fisher epitomizes the fact that we need to be doing more in terms of working in our schools and with kids to ensure that this type of mentality is not normalized and is not seen as acceptable in any way,” she said.
New Hampshire has long been a front-runner in electing women and made history a few years ago by sending the nation’s first all-female delegation to Congress. Its 424-member Legislature has long had strong female representation.
But Sexton noted that she has seen surprises in recent legislative votes and that Fisher is part of a House contingent that has increasingly asserted itself for men’s rights.
“I think there is a very vocal minority in the New Hampshire House right now that is very antiwoman and antivictim,” Sexton said.
As a result, Horn said she was pleased that her party’s leaders called out the comments attributed to Fisher.
“We are living in a state right now where we have a Republican governor, Republican Senate, and Republican House,” she said. “Our party needs to take the lead on this.”
Globe correspondent John Hilliard and Globe staff writer James Pindell contributed to this report.