CONCORD, N.H. — A 91-year-old freshman lawmaker who suggested the mentally disabled should be shipped to Siberia resigned Monday from the state House and said he was sorry that his "big mouth caused this furor."
Rep. Martin Harty's comments came to light last week during testimony at a hearing on proposed cuts to the state budget. He said he was kidding around with a female caller who supported funding for the homeless when he raised the issue of eugenics and the world's population growth.
Harty, a Republican from Barrington, said he didn't know what to do with mentally disturbed people and suggested renting a spot off Russia. He said the woman called him an Adolf Hitler and hung up.
"I was just getting the hang of it some, but with the slightly unfavorable publicity I've been getting the last few days, I'll never be an effective lawmaker," Harty said in his handwritten resignation letter.
Republican leaders quickly praised Harty for resigning.
Republican House Speaker William O'Brien said Harty came to see him Monday to offer his resignation in person.
"We both agreed that this is what is best for the House to move forward," he said.
State GOP Party Chairman Jack Kimball said Harty's comments were inappropriate and he was satisfied with his decision to quit.
"He failed to represent the sentiments of his constituents and the core values and principles of the Republican Party," Kimball said.
House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli said Harty's comments hurt thousands of New Hampshire families. She also criticized Republicans for proposing budget cuts to programs "that will be damaging to the mentally ill, disabled and children."