The Justice Project is a multimedia editorial feature of WestVirginiaVille.com, commenting on issues and people in the news.
VIDEO: “John Mandt Jr., Uncensored” | oct. 15, 2020
BACKGROUND: The chat messages seen in the video above were initially forwarded to The Huntington Herald-Dispatch and circulated on social media on Oct. 2, 2020, from a Facebook group called The “Right” Stuff.
According to HD Media stories, the group participants are identified only by first names, but profile pictures identify Mandt, a Republican seeking re-election in District 16; Derrick Evans, who is running as a Republican in District 19 in Wayne County; and Jeffrey Ward, who is running for Huntington City Council District 4.
Mandt initially claimed the messages were fabricated, but resigned his elected position Oct. 3, in a letter to Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. In his resignation letter, Mandt said he needed to focus on his family and his business.
Ward authenticated the messages in a statement, saying he was personally invited to join The “Right” Stuff by Mandt.
Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, told the Gazette-Mail that while Mandt denies the messages are real, Hanshaw strongly condemns the language and rhetoric used in the chat group.“I don’t care who said it — it’s wrong, and I want everyone to know there is no place for hatred or bigotry in our state, our political discourse or the West Virginia House of Delegates,” Hanshaw said.
The story went on to say Ward authenticated the messages in a statement, saying he was personally invited to join The “Right” Stuff by Mandt.
“At first this group spoke of issues in the community and occasionally had some locker-room humor,” Ward told the paper. “However, the rhetoric from Delegate Mandt and several members shifted to personal attacks, sophomoric remarks and were not issue driven and were beneath the dignity of his office — as such, I left the group in March of this year.”
“I want to be clear that I support all of the citizens of Huntington and want our city and all of its people to prosper,” Ward said.
The Gazette-Mail reported on Oct. 5 that Mandt reversed his decision to resign after he said he had received “messages of support,” and that he would serve Cabell County if reelected to the West Virginia Legislature in the general 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. “Hey, we all don’t agree on the same things. Things can be posted, fabricated and posted out-of-context to anybody and anyone.”