Speaker of the House Sherman Packard said Thursday he will not be removing House Majority Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) over a social media post from 2011 in which he used the “N-word.” The decision comes just months after a progressive member was disciplined for reportedly shouting the word at a young Black activist in the State House.
The New Hampshire Bulletin broke the story that a Democratic candidate for the House, Kathleen Cavalaro of Rochester, was pushing out a screenshot of the comment from a long-disbanded chat room for a libertarian radio show. The Bulletin confirmed that Osborne, 45, was the author of the post.
Defenders of Osborne say that, while the word is certainly offensive, Osborne was clearly — if clumsily — using it to condemn racial violence, not to engage in it. Though at least one GOP House member conceded to NHJournal it was “a dumbass comment.”
Osborne’s 2011 statement:
“If someone says to you that they support lynching a (racial slur), and in fact, they really are stimulated by the thought of lynching a (racial slur), would you associate with that person?” Osborne wrote in response to another commentator. “Would you tell people about it? If you say that having an idea that lynching (racial slur) is good is not the same as having an idea that (expletive) kids is good, then that is the source of the disconnect there.”
In a statement to the Bulletin, Osborne apologized for his comments.
“I do not recall writing this nearly decade-old post, which regrettably contains language I would not use today,” he said. “I was a different person 10 years ago, who would not have understood the impact of that type of comment. And given the context, the goal of the post was to condemn racism and pedophilia. This is not how I communicate today, and I would never condone such a statement now. I am not the first person to have written something in the past that they deeply regret, and I will not be the last.”
Democrats nonetheless demanded Osborne be removed from House leadership, accusing him of a “continuous pattern of insensitive, disturbing commentary that continued when he briefly made his Twitter account public this summer,” according to House Democratic Leader David E. Cote (D-Nashua),
But Osborne’s apology was good enough for Packard.
“As members of leadership, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. I know the Majority Leader regrets his use of reckless and unacceptable language in the past and has taken responsibility for his poor judgment,” Packard said in a statement late Thursday.
“He is a tireless public servant and removing him from his office would be a disservice. Punishing someone for something they regret doing more than 10 years ago is just not who I am.”
And Osborne made it clear to NHJournal that he is not cowed by Democratic efforts to use his mistakes from a decade past to silence him today.
“Democrats have been looking for any and all reasons to have me removed. They see how successful our team has been at blocking their attempts to raise taxes, grow government, stop educational opportunities for disadvantaged kids and give more money to special interests,” Osborne said.
“Democrats know they can’t win on policy. So while they continue to their focus on personal attacks, we will focus on delivering results for Granite Staters.”