Former delegate apologizes for controversial comments, says they were taken out of context

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 11:11 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A former West Virginia House of Delegates member is addressing the controversy surrounding things he wrote in a group chat.

John Mandt Jr. resigned his seat Saturday night after screen shots of the texts began circulating on social media the night before.

“I can own up to stuff, and that’s what I’m doing right now,” Mandt told WSAZ Monday evening.

Mandt now admits to writing the words from those Facebook Messenger chats that appeared to show him using anti-gay slurs and disparaging remarks.

“I do apologize if anything was put out there that hurt any of you watching this right now,” he said.

Mandt says the messages were written a year to two years ago, and he says they were taken out of context.

“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 said. “Do you think they’re going to get thrown out there into the public? No.”

Mandt says one of his quotes that stirred up anger was an answer to a question when someone asked if they remembered what was on a shirt worn at a festival.

Mandt, who owns and operates Stewarts Original Hot Dogs in Huntington, resigned from his position in the House of Delegates during the weekend.

Mandt says he never expected the comments he wrote to be seen by the public, and he says everyone has made remarks in private they’ve wanted to keep private.

“We’ve all done that, we’re human,” he said. “We all make mistakes. We all say things, we all think there’s a private conversation, and you answer a question. We’ve all done that.”

Monday evening, the AFT held a rally at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 20th Street for candidates running against Mandt.

“The comments he made are very unbecoming of anyone representing the citizens of West Virginia,” West Virginia AFT president Fred Albert said.

In February of 2019, a protest took place at Mandt’s hot dog stand over a vote critics said would negatively affect the LGBTQ community. Mandt said he only voted against discharging a bill from the committee for an immediate vote on the floor.

In spring of 2019, Marshall University got a petition asking the school to cut ties with Stewarts following comments Mandt made on social media critics called anti-Muslim.

Mandt denies being bigoted toward anyone.

“I have family members that identify with the LGBTQ community,” he said. “I have people that work in our business that identify with the LGBTQ community.”

On election day, voters will have the option to send him back to the Capitol. Mandt’s name will still be on the ballot, and he says he will serve his term should he win back his seat.

“If that’s the will of the people, then I’m gonna serve,” he said.

Mandt also said the screenshots of the texts were released by someone who has a political grudge against him.

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