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Government

Former Del. Mandt Admits To Using Gay Slur In Facebook Chat, Says He Will Serve If Re-Elected

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Perry Bennett
/
West Virginia Legislative Photography
Del. John Mandt, R-Cabell, speaks on the House floor on the final day of the 2020 legislative session. After first stating that he was hacked and offensive comments were fabricated, Mandt admitted to making the comments against the LGBTQ community but said his remarks were taken out of context. Despite suspending his campaign, he says he will serve if reelected in November.

A Republican state lawmaker from Huntington continues to draw attention after making offensive comments in a private Facebook group chat that were directed at members of the LGTBQ community. After days of falsely stating he was hacked, Del. John Mandt, Jr. has admitted to making the comments but also says he will serve if reelected.

In the private group chat — which included other local Republicans running for public office — Mandt and others made offensive comments targeting members of the Muslim and LGBTQ communities. Other offensive comments targeted other prominent local and state politicians, including members of the House of Delegates and the mayor of Huntington.

Mandt announced over the weekend that he was resigning from the West Virginia House of Delegates and suspending his reelection campaign. By Monday evening, Mandt told the Herald-Dispatch he would serve another two-year term if reelected to the House.

The 16th District, which is represented by three members in the House, has three Republicans and three Democrats on the ballot this coming election.

“Honestly, after all the support and phone calls and messages of people that were disappointed I resigned — I’ve got to take that into consideration,” Mandt said Monday to the Huntington-based newspaper.

Aside from his work in the Legislature, Mandt owns and operates Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs.

Although the offensive comments had been authenticated by others in the group chat, Mandt contended for days that his Facebook account had been hacked and that his comments were fabricated.

On Monday, Mandt also told WSAZ he admits to having made the comments in question and argues they were taken out of context.

In one comment, Mandt used an offensive slur targeting gay men. “Silly f—— d—-s are for chicks,” he wrote in the private Facebook group chat. He told WSAZ the comment was made more than a year ago and was in reference to a t-shirt he saw at a festival.

“There isn’t anybody on the face of this earth who hasn’t had private conversations or answered questions, and you answer honestly or what you feel,” Mandt told WSAZ. “Do you think they’re going to get thrown out there into the public? No.”

Multiple attempts by West Virginia Public Broadcasting to reach Mandt by phone and text were unsuccessful.

The executive director of the state’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group says Mandt’s comments highlight the need for legislation to protect members of the gay and trans communities.

“Public officials are role models for their constituents, they're role models for West Virginians. And you are not a role model when you engage in homophobic slurs [or] when you engage in disparaging other members of your own party,” said Andrew Schneider of Fairness West Virginia. “That is not the kind of civility that our Legislature demands of those who serve in that body.”

Schneider also said non-discrimination is not a partisan issue and added those who make bigoted and offensive comments should be held accountable.

He said comments like those from Mandt run counter to policy that is needed in West Virginia, including proposed legislation that offers employment, housing and public accommodation protections to members of the LGBTQ community.

“[Mandt] carries those views into the Legislature with him every day that he serves. So don't be fooled that these are just merely words coming from this man,” Schneider said. “These are words that he is going to turn into actions as the Legislature is casting votes that reflect those views. And so that's really why we need to reject him.”

Fairness West Virginia says some version of a non-discrimination bill has been introduced at the the West Virgina Capitol every year for at least 20 years.

The Legislature is scheduled to return to work for its next regular session in early February, with the newest class of lawmakers sworn in beginning Dec. 1.

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