A 91-year-old state representative told a constituent that he believes in eugenics and that the world would be better off without "defective people."
Barrington Republican Martin Harty told Sharon Omand, a Strafford resident who manages a community mental health program, that "the world is too populated" and there are "too many defective people," according to an e-mail account of the conversation by Omand. Asked what he meant, she said Harty clarified, "You know the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions - the defective people society would be better off without."
Harty confirmed to the Monitor that he made the comments to Omand. Harty told the Monitor the world population has increased dramatically, and "it's a very dangerous situation if it doubles again." Asked about people who are mentally ill, he asked, apparently referring to a lack of financial resources, "Can we afford to bring them through?"
Harty said nature has a way of "getting rid of stupid people," and "now we're saving everyone who gets born."
Harty's conversation with Omand became public at a hearing on the state budget yesterday when Laurie McCray, a registered nurse and board member of the Disability Rights Center, read Omand's account to the House Finance Committee. Afterward, McCray said she wanted people to know about the representative - whom she did not identify publicly - because he "didn't deserve to represent people in New Hampshire."
In an interview and in an e-mail Omand sent to her friends, Omand said she called Harty, who represents her district, to tell him her concerns about the House Finance Committee's proposed cuts to mental health services. Omand said Harty said he disagreed with her and made the comments about eugenics.
Omand says Harty then stated, "I wish we had a Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population."
Omand said Harty appeared to be serious. After Omand responded that his idea sounded like what Adolf Hitler did in World War II, Omand said Harty responded, "Hitler did something right, and I agree with (it)."
Harty told the Monitor he was "just kidding" about Siberia. He denied making the comment about Hitler and said it was Omand who brought up Hitler.
Harty, a retired peddler and market vendor, served as a quarter master in Gen. George Patton's Army in North Africa and Italy during World War II. Colleagues say he is hard of hearing and has appeared confused in recent House sessions.
"He's shown signs of great confusion in committee in terms of House process and content," said Rep. Marilinda Garcia, a Salem Republican who serves with Harty on the House Legislative Administration Committee.
Rep. Jon Richardson, an Allenstown Republican on the Legislative Administration Committee, said he does not condone Harty's comments on any level, but he takes into account the fact that Harty is a World War II veteran in his 90s.
"In our committee . . . he is constantly confused, easily swayed, hard of hearing, and prone to offer up unrelated commentary or go off on unrelated tangents," Richardson said.
Harty, a first-term representative, wrote a letter to Foster's Daily Democrat last month stating, "So far I really don't know what I'm doing. . . . A new Rep really needs a coach along with him at first but there is no room for anyone to sit with him, and no way they could holler at him in a committee meeting.
"The few votes I've made so far I really didn't know what I was voting for or against," his letter said. "Just looked at the people around me and went along with them."
House Speaker William O'Brien said in a statement that he does not endorse Harty's comments but respects "his longstanding commitment to protect the values we cherish."
"As someone who served in General Patton's Army in North Africa and Italy against dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, he has given far more to our country and our ideals than most of us ever will," O'Brien said.
"I would certainly hope that in the future Rep. Harty will choose his comments more carefully, and I will talk with him about how he represents the House," O'Brien continued. "While at age 92 and with the amount of time and effort he has given us all, he has earned the right to say what he thinks, he needs to appreciate that, as a Representative, he will be held to a higher standard." Harty turns 92 this month.
Omand said she was upset by the conversation and worries others in the State House share Harty's view of the mentally ill.
"They are productive people," she said. "You can't throw them away."