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Sununu criticizes Sullivan County GOP official for ‘disgusting’ tweets



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, October 07, 2019

GRANTHAM — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday said vulgar comments made on social media by a popular conservative radio talk-show host who also serves as the chairman of the Sullivan County Republican Committee are “disgusting and inappropriate.”

Keith Hanson, a Grantham resident who hosted The Keith Hanson Show on New London-based WNTK radio for four years, stirred controversy last week when he brought Jihad Watch author Robert Spencer, a critic of Islam, to headline a Sullivan County GOP fundraiser on Friday night.

In the course of sparring on social media with New Hampshire residents who were critical of the planned fundraiser, Hanson on his Twitter account referred to one as a “d---khead troll basement-dweller,” adding a “Go f--- yourself.” Referring to another, he wrote, “Don’t waste your time on this f---tard,” among other profanity.

And when Dr. Meredith MacMartin, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock palliative care physician who lives in Grantham, wrote on Twitter that “Islamophobia” was coming to her town in the form of the fundraiser and used a vomiting emoji, Hanson replied, “Piss off. And you should change that vomit emoji to be your profile pic. It represents your vile hag-like persona.”

MacMartin, who said she is an independent and was concerned about the impact of Spencer’s appearance on a Muslim family who lives in Grantham, said she was “pretty shocked” by Hanson’s “hostile language.”

“I frankly think it’s inappropriate for anybody to speak to another human being like that,” she said in a phone interview on Monday.

Asked for comment on Hanson’s tweets, given his role as a GOP county chairman, Sununu said via email through his spokesman, “At a time when the political atmosphere is so toxic, we should be working towards more civility, not less. These vulgar comments are disgusting and inappropriate — regardless of who said them — and have no place in public discourse.”

Hanson said his comments on Twitter were from his personal account and did not represent his role as county Republican chairman.

“That’s my personal opinion and I’m not speaking on behalf of the party or any of the members (of the committee),” he said in a phone interview. “Quite frankly, what makes me nauseous is the feigned outrage from people (on the left) who engage in vitriol far more vomitous than that.”

The Eastman Community Association canceled the GOP event over public safety concerns regarding expected protests, and the second venue, the Elks Lodge in Claremont, also pulled the plug at the last minute. The event was held Friday night at a church in Sullivan County, though Hanson declined to identify the venue.

He declined to say how many people attended the fundraiser, but said it “exceeded our expectations.”

State Sen. Ruth Ward, the Stoddard Republican who represents the Sunapee area, also wouldn’t say where it was held but said she was one of about 20 to 25 people there, and called it an “educational lecture” by Spencer.

“He talked about what was in the Quran. He never said Muslims are terrible people,” she said of Spencer.

When read some of Hanson’s tweets, Ward said, “I think it is totally inappropriate, and he should never have done it.”

Hanson also was criticized on Monday by Grantham resident Randy Britton, a retired Navy captain with 25 years of active duty and Navy Reserve service who last week had raised concerns about the Eastman venue with Ward’s office.

Britton said that after contacting her office, he was surprised to receive a call from Hanson, who invited him to appear on the radio show last Wednesday. Britton declined, but Hanson early in the show sharply criticized Britton, noted that he was a registered Democrat and accused him of trying to shut down a political viewpoint he disagreed with.

“You took an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America, and now you stand as a traitor because you want to silence people like me who don’t agree with you,” Hanson asserted.

Britton said he, too, was concerned about the impact of Spencer’s appearance on the Muslim family in Grantham and found the experience with Hanson troubling.

“The bottom line for Mr. Hanson is he sees no line between his political job and his personal job, and it’s outrageous to me that someone would leverage their position in such a way that they would use that for political advantage and to press their agenda, and to defame people without cause,” Britton said.

Hanson’s show was abruptly canceled on Friday, though both he and WNTK general manager Matt Cross maintain it was not related to his dual role as a party official or to the controversy over the fundraiser.

“The circumstances involving Keith’s departure were not based on any one event or circumstance,” said Cross, who did not want to elaborate on an internal personnel matter.

Hanson said he had several regional and national projects related to broadcasting that he wants to focus on.

“I opted not to renew my contract” after four years at the station, he said.

Dozens of listeners took to Facebook bemoaning the cancellation of the show, saying Hanson was an important conservative voice in the region.

“Going to be sorely missed. He was a great voice for the deplorables,” wrote Kenny Keith, a Hartland resident.

Keith, who ran a trucking business and was a regular listener who got to know Hanson personally, said Hanson was well-read and a “really smart guy.”

“He was a conservative voice, but he wasn’t just a flame thrower,” Keith said. “He knew his stuff, and he was able to back it up.”

Hanson previously ran and lost for New Hampshire GOP party chairman. Asked for comment about his social media statements, New Hampshire GOP spokesman Joe Sweeney on Monday said, “I will defer to what the governor said.”

Asked if the state committee had the power to remove Hanson as county chairman, Sweeney said it was up to members of the Sullivan County Republican Committee.

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.