The things people post online have consequences, former Cambridge City Council candidate John Sanzone learned.
According to the Cambridge Chronicle, Sanzone pulled out of the city council race Monday because it was discovered that he was a participant in the white supremacy website, Stormfront, as a teenager. The Chronicle said that Sanzone had posted over 120 messages about white nationalism on the notorious hate site between 2004 and 2005.
Sanzone, now 27, posted the material when he was aged 16 and 17 years old, and said that the source of his rage came from being ashamed of his homosexuality and angry about his father’s arrest.
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“I was a fairly out-of-place person, meaning a deeply closeted gay person, in my youth,” Sanzone told the Chronicle. “I was outwardly not a very pro-gay person at that time, which I think is not an uncommon, psychological experience for every gay youth, even adults. It’s very shameful that I would ever think or talk that way. Because looking back it was all very obvious I was in denial.”
His posts on Stormfront ranged from disgust towards a gay boy at school who gave him a flower on Valentine’s Day to the need for each race, in order to remain pure, to have their own nations for themselves. He had posted threads citing the United States' "undying love" for Israel as a reason for the 9/11 attacks.
In his posting, "It isn't everyday you get a flower from a gay," he talked about feeling outraged when a gay student gave him a flower, saying "Later on, [I] contained myself as to not lash out and kill the kid when I saw him past me in the hall."
But in the next paragraph in his rant, he talks about an inability to report the act because he felt administrators had him pegged as a racist who championed hateful views.
"So I decided I had two choices to make, both of which involved going to the guidance office and principal to report it and express how 'deeply offended' I was by this ridiculous act. Well, they blamed it on me, because of my 'openness with my views' and my 'being against jews and people with...alternate sexual preferences'. mm, somehow jews got brought in...we all know that never fails."
A representative from Stormfront did not immediately respond to phone calls.
Sanzone had been running for Cambridge City Council, but dropped out of the race on Monday, citing the hateful posts as a lightning rod for negative attention.
Supporters encouraged Sanzone to keep his head up and carry onwards.
"I really admired his integrity," former co-worker Allison Odle said. "He had a good head for business and was very bright, but he did not use this primarily to make a profit or for personal gain. He was very involved in the community and working on bike advocacy and other causes, that was his true passion."
Sanzone's focus on safety and housing made him an appealing candidate, according to other supporters.
"Overall though I think it's best for Cambridge that he stepped out," supporter Matt Carphree said. "By withdrawing from the race he somewhat keeps the election about issues like affordable housing and safe streets. If he stayed in the conversation would be about him and his past. Keep the election about the issues."
He claimed that his hateful views are behind him, and that he has disposed of his past racist, homophobic, and race-based nationalism. He even apologized for not being a better person.
“John Sanzone had promising ideas and brought a positive community outlook that all candidates should bring to the table,” Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung said. “We want to believe that he is a good and changed man. I personally condemn his words and behaviors as a use, but perhaps there are lessons to be learned about issues and prejudices and demons young people go through that often go overlooked. It is shocking and I want to believe that he's a changed man.”
Sanzone said on his Facebook page that he is leaving public life in Cambridge and will not issue any further comments.