A lawmaker in West Virginia who narrowly won re-election in November despite offensive, private, social media messages coming to light, has spoken further about the controversy.
John Mandt Jr says he was just speaking “honestly” in a private chat and had no idea his quotes would go public.
Mandt, a Republican, is a local hotdog entrepreneur and House representative for District 16 in West Virginia. He was first elected in 2018. In early October, he resigned during his re-election campaign.
At the time, he said he was resigning to concentrate on his family and business.
His resignation came hours after equality campaigners highlighted messages Mandt posted in a private Facebook group chat, in which he used the word ‘faggot’ as an anti-gay slur.
“Silly Faggot, Dicks are for chicks!!” Mandt allegedly wrote. He also criticized a piece of legislation as a “queer bill” and questioned another lawmaker’s sexuality because he was “a little feminine.”
Screenshots of the exchange began circulating on social media on Saturday, October 3.
Was going to go to bed. Saw something upsetting.
I know a lot of Catholics think that homophobia isnt real. I have to tell you it is. It’s so real and it scares me
The “John” in these messages is John Mandt, a local state representative. This is what I see all around me. pic.twitter.com/s13tFSPMgr
— Rachel! (@RachelEnders3) October 3, 2020
Mandt resigned later that day. He posted a message on social media saying he was “really hurt and very disappointed seeing fabricated posts circulating on social media.” That message was later deleted.
Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw accepted Mandt’s resignation, and although not specifically addressing Mandt’s alleged language, later made a statement saying bigotry had no place in the state.
In an unexpected twist, just hours after resigning, Mandt announced he’d had a change of mind and would stand again for re-election. He told local news station WSAZ the comments had been taken out of context and: “I do apologize if anything was put out there that hurt any of you watching this right now.” He said he had LGBTQ family members and employees. He denied being a bigot.
Last week, it was announced that Mandt had narrowly won his re-election with a majority of just 71 votes.
On Monday, he appeared to want to wipe the slate clean and expunge his record of homophobia.
Local media outlet WOWK reports a Facebook posting Mandt made to his private followers.
“I need to speak. Things have been printed of what I’ve supposedly posted in a private chat. Honestly, I did use a gay slur in my answer to what was written on a t-shirt. I don’t use gay slurs, but I did in answering a question,” Mandt said by way of explanation.
“This was over a year and a half ago. If someone asked you a question in a group text, you’d answer the question honestly. I had no idea this would be posted on social media to hurt people. This is the reason I called WSAZ so I could publicly apologize.
“Yes, I said it privately answering a question. I would NEVER say anything to hurt anyone. You all know me. This is the ugliness of politics. I’m human. I’m just as you are and I’m here to represent you.
“Thank you for re-electing me to continue serving you! I didn’t ask for the slander, but I’ve quickly found out it comes with the position. I won’t back down now bc, unfortunately, my character has been put through the wringer. So why stop representing you? YOU KNOW I’m here for you and I’m elected to represent what you feel is right. I can sustain the hits for you! Keep me on the front line. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!!!”