Following a tumultuous tenure in the West Virginia House of Delegates, John Mandt, R-Cabell, resigned over the weekend after he appeared to be caught making offensive remarks about minority groups for at least the third time over the past two years.
Taylor Stuck of The Herald-Dispatch reported that Mandt, who also owns and operates Stewarts Original Hotdogs, was part of a Facebook group called The “Right” Stuff and messages in which Mandt used homophobic and anti-Islamic slurs were obtained by the Huntington paper. Mandt claimed the messages were fabricated, but The Herald-Dispatch reported that it was able to authenticate them through a source.
This is now a pattern of behavior for Mandt.
Last year, Mandt went on Facebook to criticize a vigil at a Huntington mosque where locals gathered to honor the lives of victims in a mass shooting of Islamic worshipers in New Zealand. When the post generated backlash, Mandt went through a litany of deleting, revising and reposting, eventually claiming it was a misunderstanding, before pivoting one last time to claim his account had been hacked. Shortly after that, he made demeaning remarks about the LGBTQ community.
In August 2019, the food service contractor for Marshall University severed ties with Mandt’s business, which had sold Stewart’s hotdogs at Thundering Herd sporting events for 30 years.
Mandt did not apologize for his most recent remarks in a statement on his resignation. He has, however, deleted the statement that asserted the slurs were fabricated and part of a “design” to attack his business and his family. In previous incidents, Mandt not only changed his story, but seemed to come away with the impression that he, somehow, was the victim.
More troubling is that Mandt doesn’t appear to have learned anything from these incidents. It creates a question of whether he’s stepping down just to get away from public criticism, rather than a realization that his remarks are unbecoming of his office, completely inappropriate and hurtful to a large number of West Virginians.
Such antagonism toward certain groups of people certainly has no place in the West Virginia Legislature, so it is, at least, beneficial to West Virginians that Mandt will no longer be there for the rest of this term. Of course, Mandt is still on the ballot, because it’s too late to remove him. He could try to reclaim his seat if he gets enough votes. Again, that would show he’s learned nothing. Mandt needs to be able to see and comprehend the full picture, and the damage of his conduct, rather than perpetually playing the victim, if he hopes to make any meaningful progress as a human being and right his wrongs.