New Sullivan County GOP chairman apologizes for predecessor’s remarks

  • Steven Smith

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2019 3:15:26 PM
Modified: 10/29/2019 9:59:18 PM

NEWPORT — Sullivan County Republican Chairman Keith Hanson was forced out last week after making vulgar comments about constituents on social media and calling a Navy veteran a “traitor.”

The new chairman, state Rep. Steven Smith, R-Charlestown, said Hanson resigned after members of the Sullivan County Republican Committee began discussing a motion to replace him at a meeting in Newport on Thursday.

“The committee should be fighting a vigorous fight on all the issues and never attacking anybody personally because we want to welcome everybody to the Republican party,” Smith said on Tuesday. “We don’t care where you came from.”

Hanson, a former radio talk show host on WNTK whose program also was canceled recently, had drawn criticism for bringing Robert Spencer, a critic of Islam and the author of the Jihad Watch blog, to be the keynote speaker at a Republican county fundraiser earlier this month.

Hanson also had used vulgarities on his Twitter account to disparage New Hampshire residents who were critical of the planned fundraiser, and on his radio show had called Grantham resident Randy Britton a “traitor because you want to silence people like me who don’t agree with you.”

Smith, who discussed the transition in an interview on WCNL radio on Monday, said he had apologized to Britton, saying his “integrity was above reproach.”

Britton, a retired Navy captain with 25 years of active duty and Navy Reserve service, had raised concerns about the impact of Spencer’s appearance on a Muslim family who lived near the original proposed venue for the fundraiser in the Eastman Community Association.

Smith said he had not heard Spencer speak so didn’t want to make a judgment about his content, but also apologized on air to the Muslim family.

“That family in Eastman should not have to have gone through this,” Smith said. “They came to this country to be Americans. And that is one of the values that we want to support. We don’t want to make these people feel not welcome.”

Messages left for Hanson, who also had run unsuccessfully for state GOP chairman, were not returned on Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu earlier this month had called Hanson’s comments “disgusting and inappropriate” and said they had no place in public discourse.

Meredith MacMartin, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock palliative care physician who lives in Grantham and who was one of the people Hanson insulted on Twitter, said she was pleased the county Republicans took action.

“I see this as a positive step towards greater civility in the way we talk to each other. I am really pleased to see the county Republican committee standing up for treating each other respectfully regardless of our opinions,” said MacMartin, an independent.

Britton also said he appreciated Smith’s words and action.

“I’m grateful that Steve has apologized for this pretty outrageous personal attack that I never asked for, and I’m grateful that he acknowledged that that approach is not something that is acceptable or something that they would really want to own moving forward,” Britton said.

He also said it was ironic given what’s happening nationally, as some defenders of President Donald Trump this week question the patriotism of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Iraq veteran who serves on the National Security Council staff and testified in the House impeachment inquiry over Trump’s call to the Ukraine president.

“That to me is of a kind to the type of attack I suffered, but I’m grateful that at least locally people are recognizing that personal attacks are not the way to do business,” Britton said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at or 603-727-3217.

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