Politics

New Hampshire House speaker caught on hot mic calling female colleague a ‘b****’

"I let the stress and anxiety of this event get the best of me."

New Hampshire House Clerk Paul Smith (left) and House Speaker Sherm Packard (right). Screenshot via Twitter

For the second time in as many months, a New Hampshire state lawmaker was caught on a hot mic calling a female colleague a “b****” Friday.

During a State House session held inside a Bedford sporting complex to promote distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, House Speaker Sherm Packard, a Manchester Republican, could be heard calling a fellow GOP lawmaker, Derry Rep. Anne Copp, a “b****” after she had to be reminded by the House clerk to wear a face covering while walking around the floor.

“Representative Copp please have your mask on while you’re walking around,” House Clerk Paul Smith said to the freshman lawmaker, who has protested Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring people in New Hampshire to wear a face covering when they can’t socially distance.

“She’s just a b****,” Packard said to Smith shortly thereafter.

Packard — who took over as House speaker after the previous speaker, Dick Hinch, died of COVID-19 shortly after being sworn in to the position in December — subsequently issued a written apology, which he also read to lawmakers Friday afternoon.

“Earlier today before the session had officially started, I referred to a member of this House in a highly inappropriate manner,” he said. “I want to apologize in a sincere manner to this member and to the House. I let the stress and anxiety of this event get the best of me, and I said something I would not want any member of this House to say about a fellow member, or any person. I want you all to know that I feel terrible about this situation, and I want the member to know – and you all to know – that you all have my utmost respect.”

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Packard added that he hoped Copp accepted his apology.

His comments were denounced as “unacceptable and unfitting for the leader of the House — or any elected official,” by the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund.

“It is painful, but important, that increased transparency has exposed such misogynistic behavior,” the group tweeted Friday.

However, at least one Democratic lawmaker appeared to excuse Packard’s language.

“Hot mics happen,” state Rep. Suzanne Vail, a Nashua Democrat, wrote. “I hope this matters to [Copp] and she feels offended,”

The incident Friday comes almost two months after state Sen. John Reagan, a Deerfield Republican, used the same exact word to describe state Sen. Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican, during a Zoom meeting on Feb. 10, after she briefly recessed the meeting to take a doctor’s call about her hospitalized daughter.

Reagan reportedly later apologized for his language, calling it “an open mic Zoom goof,” The Concord Monitor reported at the time.

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