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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Second GOP rep adds ‘Scumbag’ to McCormack name calling

CONCORD – Conservative leaders began to step in Wednesday to try to quell the simmering controversy over House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt’s attack against Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack as a “pedophile pimp.”

While Bettencourt has apologized for his comments and was planning to meet privately with McCormack today, other GOP lawmakers have picked up the assault.

Rep. Timothy Comerford, R-Fremont, said McCormack is a “corrupt scumbag in my book,” in comments he posted at the New Hampshire Union Leader website.

“This is one of those instances where no apology is necessary in my opinion,” he continued.

“Why should we kowtow to a corrupt hack of a Bishop?? I am usually very deferential and get along with people well, but the TRUTH is the TRUTH!! I don’t understand why any good Catholic would stand behind such a disgraceful man.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, said he would consider seeking legislation to strip the Catholic Church in New Hampshire of its tax-exempt status and accused McCormack of breaking the law by speaking out against the House budget last week.

Manuse backed off later, saying he has no plans to seek such legislation and said his comments were “completely overblown.”

Since Bettencourt made the comment, GOP State Chairman Jack Kimball has been one of the only leading Republicans to condemn it outright.

On Wednesday, Kimball spokeswoman Christine Baratta said House GOP lawmakers need to come to their senses in the wake of these latest outbursts.

“Many of our state representatives seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture and what Republicans were elected to do,” Baratta said in a statement.

“We have a fiscal crisis in this state, and last week the House served the taxpayers well and passed a responsible budget. The Democrats’ addiction to spending caused this budget outrage and now instead of taking responsibility for their behavior, they have created a climate of fear to falsely scare people and to distract voters from the enormous budget deficit brought on by the failed leadership of John Lynch and the Democrats.”

Cornerstone Action NH executive director Kevin Smith condemned Manuse’s legislative threat Wednesday.

“While I consider Rep. Manuse a friend, his comments characterizing church leaders who engage in public policy debates as ‘breaking the law’ are clearly misguided,” Smith said.

“Further, any attempt to strip such churches of their tax-exempt status would not only be unconstitutional, but would likely ignite an unnecessary division between church leaders and elected officials.”

A former Republican member of the House from Londonderry, Smith issued a cautionary warning to newly elected representatives such as Manuse and Comerford.

“As a side note, I would also just say that the perceived lack of prudence and respect for the position on the part of some of the newly elected representatives this year has been very troubling and is not what I would consider to be representative of traditional conservatism,” Smith said.

“Along with being an elected official in the House, despite it being a nearly volunteer job, comes an awesome responsibility to represent the people in a manner that is both dignified and honors the timeless decorum of the institution. I understand that many in the House are new to the process this year, but that does not excuse some of the unbecoming behavior that conservatives like myself are growing very weary of.”

Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein blames the House GOP leadership for failing to cool the rhetoric.

“What is going on with Republicans in the House? They are out of control, and it is evident there is a lack of maturity and leadership,” Kirstein said. “Will a leader in the Republican Party come forward and address this madness, or will House Republicans continue to run wild?”

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.