NH House speaker rebuffs calls for majority leader to resign over use of racial slur

The speaker said the majority leader should not be punished for his 'reckless and unacceptable' past language.

NH House speaker rebuffs calls for majority leader to resign over use of racial slur
Granite Memo photo illustration based on Creative Commons photo by James Bilbrey

Republican House Speaker Sherman Packard said he would not be asking House Majority Leader Jason Osborne to resign after a 2011 post resurfaced showing Osborne using a racial slur, arguing that Osborne had sufficiently apologized and should not be punished for the past.

In a statement Thursday, first given to WMUR, Packard said: “I know the Majority Leader regrets his use of reckless and unacceptable language in the past and has taken responsibility for his poor judgment.”

“He is a tireless public servant and removing him from his office would be a disservice,” Packard continued. “Punishing someone for something they regret doing more than 10 years ago is just not who I am.”

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The statement came hours after the New Hampshire Bulletin published a story Thursday confirming that Osborne had written a post where he repeatedly used a racial epithet for Black people on a Libertarian forum. Osborne had used the slur to make a point about the morality of holding reprehensible opinions.

“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, then 33, wrote, directing his comment to another forum user who was defending the right to hold abhorrent views and not face consequences. “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.”

"Punishing someone for something they regret doing more than 10 years ago is just not who I am."

Osborne, now 45, apologized in a statement to the Bulletin, saying “this is not how I communicate today, and I would never condone such a statement now.”

“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.”

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A screenshot of the post was first published online on Tuesday by Kathleen Cavalaro, a Democrat running for state representative in Rochester. The Bulletin later authenticated the post. The website was taken down later.

On Thursday, House Democratic Leader David Cote called on Osborne to resign.

“While Leader Osborne’s apology for use of a racial slur is certainly warranted, the posts show a continuous pattern of insensitive, disturbing commentary that continued when he briefly made his Twitter account public this summer,” Cote said in a statement.

“Sadly, Leader Osborne appears more interested in fanning the flames of discontent in the House than resolving concerns in a professional and respectful manner,” he added. “It’s become clear to me that Speaker Packard has lost control of his majority leader and should terminate Representative Osborne’s role as a member of House leadership.”

On Thursday, Gov. Chris Sununu, a fellow Republican, condemned Osborne’s post, which he said “no matter the context” was “horribly inappropriate.” Sununu did not respond to questions about whether Osbone should resign from his role.

The story was produced by the editorially independent New Hampshire Bulletin, which is not affiliated with Granite Memo.