New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne repeatedly used a racial epithet for Black people on a libertarian web forum in 2011, a recently surfaced post reveals.
In the post, written on a now-disbanded forum for the libertarian radio show “Free Talk Live” and confirmed by the Bulletin, Osborne, an Auburn Republican, appeared to use the slurs to draw a comparison between child sex abuse and lynching, and to make the point that people who voice support of either behavior should be avoided.
“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, who was 33 at the time, 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 Wednesday, Osborne, now 45, expressed regret for the words.
“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.”
In a statement Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu, a fellow Republican, condemned Osborne’s comments.
“No matter the context, these words are horribly inappropriate and wrong,” Sununu said. “Representative Osborne’s unequivocal remorse and apology is certainly warranted.”
Sununu did not answer questions about whether Osborne should be re-elected or retain his position as majority leader.
How the post surfaced
Osborne’s post came to light Tuesday, after a Democratic candidate for state representative, Kathleen Cavalaro of Rochester, posted a screenshot of the comment on Twitter, which was written on the web forum on April 14, 2011, by a user named “Osborne.”
“Posting this until it gets retweeted hundreds of times,” Cavalaro wrote on her Twitter feed Tuesday morning.
The Bulletin independently corroborated the screenshot, locating the original post and connecting the user who wrote it to Jason Osborne. The user “Osborne” identified his location as Northwest Ohio, and wrote in other posts that he had attended Hillsdale College in Michigan and worked for an account receivables management firm in Ohio. Jason Osborne works for an account receivables management firm, attended Hillsdale for his undergraduate degree, and lived in Defiance, Ohio, before moving to New Hampshire in 2010.
The post was written on “bbs.freetalklive.com,” a companion website for the “Free Talk Live” show that included a forum for fans of the radio show.
Osborne, who was identified on the site under the title “Worshipful Grand Conspirator,” was active between 2006 and 2015, according to his profile. He commented 1,241 times over those years. The forum for the radio show was discontinued in 2015 and moved to a new location, but the posts remained online until late Tuesday.
The bbs.freetalklive.com website was taken offline Tuesday. The Bulletin collected screenshots and saved web pages containing all 1,241 posts before the website was removed.
The forum thread in which Osborne used the racial slur was titled “Drama in the Free State.” Spanning more than 300 pages of comments, it featured a debate over how to treat people who hold deplorable social views. One user argued that a person who was voicing support for abhorrent behavior should not be shunned from society as long as they were speaking theoretically and did not commit an action themselves.
In the post, Osborne appears to disagree, and uses a hypothetical person who supports lynching to make that argument. In describing that hypothetical person’s beliefs, he used the racial epithet three times.
In a later post, he added: “I don’t care whether you masturbate to children or kidnapped amputees. The issue is whether you espouse the behavior as BEING GOOD AND MORAL TO ENGAGE IN.”
Osborne says he has changed
In a conversation Wednesday, Osborne agreed to be interviewed about the post containing epithets but not to be quoted directly. He repeated that he did not remember writing the post and did not recall the exact context. But he argued that many in the libertarian community back then considered themselves anti-racist`, and said his racist post may have been designed to use shock value to make a point.
Osborne said he does not think he used the slur in regular conversation at the time of the post.
The post with the racial epithet was one of several from Osborne on the web forum over the years that were coarsely worded and contained offensive descriptions.
Speaking on breastfeeding, in 2010, he wrote: “I berated this chick at the grocery yesterday for not busting out her (expletive) when her baby was screaming. Sorry, lady, but traumatized babies are far more important than the prudey sensibilities of brain-damaged adults.”
In a sarcastic reply to a post about the country’s high student loan debt he used crude language comparing violent sex to the removal of government regulations.
In another post, from 2007, he appeared to question the need for a law determining when a child can legally consent to sex.
“How about letting the market decide on an individual basis?” Osborne wrote. “Are we to believe there is some magical date where someone is able to have sex after but not before? Give me a break.”
In the interview Wednesday, Osborne said he still believes public breastfeeding should be encouraged, but that he wouldn’t use that language today. But he said he now believes that while the age of consent was arbitrarily decided by necessity, it is a reflection of each society’s values and should be upheld in law.
Osborne says that he has changed his personality since writing the post with racial epithets. He said in the years immediately following that post, he stopped drinking, lost weight, and returned to church. Those changes helped mellow his choice of words and how he interacted with people, he said.
In 2014, he embraced the Republican Party after years of skepticism and won a seat in the Legislature, promising to oppose all expansion of government. Six years later, he ascended to leadership, selected by the late Dick Hinch for majority leader as Republicans took back the State House.
“Obviously, I know where I’ve come from, and most of my colleagues know as well,” he said in the interview, in a quote he allowed to be used on the record. “I used to be a radical dude. And you know, part of the reason I have this job is because look: ‘If this guy can change, then anybody can.’”
I used to be a radical dude. And you know, part of the reason I have this job is because look: ‘If this guy can change, then anybody can.’
In leadership, Osborne has championed conservative causes, most recently pushing for a parental bill of rights that would add reporting requirements from public schools to parents. But his tenure as House majority leader has also been marked by bombast, with harshly worded press releases assailing Democratic initiatives and some tweets that have drawn controversy. In a tweet in July 2022, he urged Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July and “lay off the calories and grab a few more rounds for your AK-47.”
In January 2021, Democratic Rep. Nicole Klein-Knight of Manchester faced accusations of racism and bipartisan condemnations after using the same racial epithet in front of a person of color. Osborne blasted the behavior, which Klein-Knight later apologized for, arguing in a press release that it showed Democrats “are losing ground to the more extreme members of their own party.”
“Her comments have no place in society,” he wrote.