Democrats in West Virginia called on Republican Delegate Eric Porterfield to resign after he made anti-LGBTQ remarks last month. Porterfield then went on to appear on a West Virginia news program to double down on his statements about LGBTQ people and repeated a statement that was widely construed to mean that he would drown his kids if they were gay. Now, Porterfield has said in a statement to The Advocate that he was merely quoting the Western-themed Mel Gibson comedy Maverick and that the “liberal media” made assumptions about him.
The exchange between Porterfield and WVVA TV’s Rachel Anderson went as follows:
“You have an adorable daughter and a precious son. What would happen if in a few years from now when they’re teens, young adults they came to you and said they think they might be gay or a lesbian?” Anderson asked.
“I will address my daughter first. I would take her for a pedicure. I’d take her to get her nails done and see if she could swim,” Porterfield replied.
“If it was my son, I would probably take him hunting. I would take him fishing and see if he could swim,” he said, grinning.
“What do you mean you would see if they could swim?,” Anderson asked.
“I just want to make sure they could swim,” Porterfield responded, refusing to clarify exactly what he meant when he threatened to throw his kids into water and testing if they "could swim" if they came out as gay.
Several outlets questioned Porterfield’s statement while others outright accused him of saying he would drown his kids if they were gay, especially following his earlier remarks in which he called LGBTQ people a “terrorist group” and the “modern-day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”
In an email to The Advocate, Porterfield explained that “I’d see if they could swim” was paraphrasing a character in the 1994 movie Maverick, which starred renowned homophobe Mel Gibson, as well as Jodie Foster and James Garner.
“This was a reference to the movie Maverick with Mel Gibson. This had nothing to do with drowning my children. Cheating on the boat meant you could no longer be on the boat and the last thing that was asked was "Do you swim?" as a courtesy,” Porterfield wrote to The Advocate.
“Amazing how liberal media assumes and tries to make facts in these type of situations for self-benefit. LGBTQ activist group, Fairness WV are propagators of this type of nonsense,” he added.
The embattled politician, who is blind, went on to explain that his safety has been threatened since his remarks went viral. He blamed West Virginia Democratic Party Chair Belinda Biafore for helping to endanger his safety.
“WVDP President Malinda [sic] Biafore has spread lies inspiring hate crimes against us. Remember I am totally blind and have had people threaten my safety as a government official,” Porterfield said. “One man has been arrested and let out on bond but I don't think that made international news.”
The man Porterfield was referring to is Jonathan George Benfer, who was charged in early March for intimidation or retaliation against a public official for statements he allegedly made in a phone call, the details of which were released in the criminal complaint, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
“I’m a faggot! If you want to take us on, my people, you take me on personally. If you want to bash a faggot, you can call me up and we have it out mister, I will come! You’re a fucking coward,” Benfer said, according to the criminal complaint. “You’re fucking insulting my people! You’re contributing to the massive numbers of suicides. Now you’re a representative so you’re in public, so we’re going to bash back!”