- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire legislator under fire for creating a misogynistic online forum said Tuesday he doesn’t hate women or condone rape, and he believes it’s a waste of lawmakers’ time to dig into his past comments.

“I have never hated women, I know that’s what has been alleged,” Republican state Rep. Robert Fisher told a legislative committee tasked with looking into his comments. “Some of the views that have been alleged here are certainly not reflective of what I stand for or what I have done in my time here in Concord.”

But about a dozen lawmakers, advocates and residents - mostly women - urged lawmakers to take formal action against Fisher, arguing his comments fuel a culture of disrespecting and degrading women and are beneath the dignity of his office. Several suggested failing to take action against Fisher would appear to normalize and condone misogyny and even violence against women.

The legislative committee could recommend the full House reprimand, censure, expel or take no action against Fisher.

“We should not try to make this go away by patting ourselves on the back for holding a hearing,” said Democratic Rep. Debra Altschiller. “We know we have a representative in our House who invites and incites a community that degrades women, minimizes sexual assault and unabashedly contributes to the rape culture we should be changing here in New Hampshire.”

The hearing was prompted by recent revelations that Fisher created a Reddit forum called “The Red Pill,” which bills itself as a discussion of sexual strategies for men. Fisher admitted Tuesday that he is the user who appears to have created the site, but he denied a Monday story prominently displayed on The Daily Beast website saying he still moderates it.

In one Red Pill post, users debate whether “every woman wants to be attractive enough to be raped.” Discussions also have degraded women’s intelligence and decried feminism as a societal problem.

Fisher, 31, has said that in his early 20s he went through a “nightmare situation” where “false rape accusations became a very real concern.” He now says he’s in a happy relationship and that the news stories about him have prompted people to harass his girlfriend.

The second-term representative from Laconia does not serve on a committee at his own request and shows up about half the time for votes. Republicans, including Gov. Chris Sununu, have called for his resignation, but other lawmakers say he has a right to free speech. He’ll be up for re-election in 2018.

The committee is only supposed to look into comments Fisher made this year. But in a recent piece he wrote for his local newspaper, Fisher defended and doubled down on some of his statements. In one past comment, he said videotaping sexual encounters with women may be the only way for men to defend themselves against fake rape allegations.

“The representative is promoting the false narrative that victims are liars,” said Amanda Grady Sexton of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Brian Harlow, a Concord resident who showed up to speak out against Fisher, said the “eyes of the world” are on New Hampshire following an earlier Daily Beast story last month. Harlow said while many of Fisher’s comments were made years ago, he doesn’t believe Fisher’s views have changed.

“I didn’t see or hear any contrition, I saw no empathy, I saw no compassion,” he said. “I expected better.”

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