GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s latest endorsement comes from New Hampshire State Rep. DJ Bettencourt, the number two Republican in the state’s House of Representatives. “I think Gov. Romney’s experience in Massachusetts best suits him to take on the challenges of the country,” Bettencourt told Politico.
Bettencourt would be just another relatively obscure state legislator—especially in New Hampshire, where the state House includes a whopping 400 members—except for a particularly inflammatory remark he made in April. On his Facebook page, Bettencourt called Bishop John McCormack a “pedophile pimp” after the bishop spoke out against the state House leadership’s proposed budget plan at a statehouse rally. That budget called for deep, painful cuts to health-care spending, services for the disabled, and education funding. Here’s what Bettencourt wrote on his Facebook page:
“Would the Bishop like to discuss his history of protecting the ‘vulnerable’? This man is a pedophile pimp who should have been led away from the state House in handcuffs with a rain coat over his head in disgrace. He has absolutely no moral credibility to lecture anyone.”
Bettencourt’s criticism referred to a 2002 settlement with New Hampshire prosecutors in which the diocese that included McCormack admitted to shielding abusive priests. It agreed to audits of its handling of complaints that minors had been sexually abused. Bettencourt later said he’d been “undiplomatic” in his attack on McCormack.
In New Hampshire’s rough-and-tumble legislature, of course, Bettencourt was not alone in unleashing nasty rhetoric on budget protesters. The speaker of the state House, William O’Brien, called those protesting the GOP-backed budget “thugs”; the House finance committee chairman, Ken Weyler, told protesters to “shut up”; and a freshman state legislator, Martin Harty, said he supported eugenics and also a world without “defective people.” (Harty later said his comments were a joke.)
Catholics United, a non-partisan advocacy group, has called on Romney to reject Bettencourt’s endorsement based on his attack on Bishop McCormack. “[Bettencourt] attacked the character of a religious leader for choosing to stand with the poor and working class,” James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, said in a statement. “By accepting this endorsement, Mitt Romney raises concerns amongst Catholic voters that he approves of Bettencourt’s corrosive and disrespectful campaign tactics.”