Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, says it’s “disgusting” that the state is directing its agencies to discourage the scientifically discredited practice of “conversion therapy.”
On Thursday, Mastriano appeared on 103.7 FM, a conservative talk radio station in the southern tier of the state. Speaking to host Michele Jansen, Mastriano criticized Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro for coming out against the practice, which seeks to change one’s gender or sexual identity and has been linked to increased suicide attempts and depression among LGBTQ people.
Wolf recently issued an executive order directing state agencies to update policies surrounding LGBTQ people, promote practices that are supported by the scientific and medical communities, and ensure that state resources aren’t going toward conversion therapy. Shapiro, the current attorney general of Pennsylvania, supports the directive.
Mastriano, who is also a member of Pennsylvania’s state senate, wasn’t pleased about their stance.
“This is disgusting to me, where bureaucrats and Tom Wolf — and Josh Shapiro — thinks it’s okay to come in and threaten parents and therapists because their kids might be confused,” he told Jansen.
Though conversion therapy has been rejected by every major organization in the mental health field, Mastriano appeared to not only defend the practice but also double down on the idea that LGBTQ children are simply “confused.”
He went on to blame this supposed confusion on educators, contending that schools “have graphic pornographic books laid out.”
Jansen also indicated that she was also against Wolf’s executive order, saying that the LGBTQ movement is “an activist, political, ideological group. They’re not an ethnicity. They’re not a community of people.”
Mastriano’s views on conversion therapy strike a sharp contrast to his opponent’s.
“As Governor, I’ll pass nondiscrimination in Pennsylvania, ban conversion therapy practices for minors, and invest in mental health resources for youth,” Shapiro tweeted in May, adding that “LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.” Polls show that Shapiro is ahead in the race for governor as the November election approaches.
Mastriano, meanwhile, is a leading figure in the Christian nationalist movement, which argues that the U.S. is a Christian country.
He also organized buses for former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally preceding the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Video footage showed Mastriano approaching the Capitol that day, though he has said he never entered. Still, Mastriano was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the attack on the building.
This week’s remarks fit into a pattern of statements by the GOP nominee. When asked in 2018 if he thought gay marriage should be legal, he replied, “Absolutely not.” He has also said that gay couples shouldn’t be able to adopt childrenand that it’s “madness” to include gender identity under federal anti-discrimination laws.
Despite this history of hateful rhetoric, Mastriano removed a video of Thursday’s comments from his Facebook page, where he had livestreamed the radio interview. Previously, Mastriano has also deleted videos in which he referred to climate change as a mere “theory” and abortion as “the murder of babies,” according to reporting from The Philadelphia Inquirer in July.
His latest remarks come amid renewed legislative attacks on LGBTQ people by the Republican Party, with a flood of proposed laws across the country targeting the community — including measures that would restrict what teachers can say in the classroom and which teams transgender children can play on at school.
Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.
If you or someone you know needs help, dial 988 or call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also get support via text by visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.