Jacksonville mayoral candidate Mike Hogan, considered by many to be a front-runner to replace current Mayor John Peyton, has landed in hot water after making controversial comments about his views on abortion. During a candidate forum at St. Joseph Catholic Church Monday night, Hogan reportedly remarked that he was against abortions, but would not bomb an abortion clinic, then jokingly added: “It may cross my mind.”

Shortly after making the comment, Hogan told The Florida Times-Union he was only pandering to his audience: “If I’ve got to measure everything I say, I mean, I’m not going to be politically correct. … That was a joke. This was an audience for this. This is a Catholic Church. I guarantee you they are 110 percent pro-life.”

The comment, made just one month shy of election day, has raised eyebrows in the city and caught the attention of Planned Parenthood. In a statement made to NBC affiliate First Coast News, Staci Fox, president and CEO of the Northeast Florida chapter of Planned Parenthood, expressed her concern over the comment:

Whether intended as a joke or not, the suggestion of violence should have no place in public discourse. Women should not have to fear harassment or intimidation when accessing reproductive health care. Violence and murder cannot be justified by personal beliefs about abortion and will not be tolerated in Jacksonville.

Hogan has further backtracked on the statement, saying it has been “blown way out of proportion.”

From his Tuesday statement: “I regret making a remark in jest that has given the pro-abortion movement cause to mobilize against me. However, as I said to Father Cody again this morning, I will never back down from our shared commitment to compassionately stand for the sanctity of life.”

According to the Times-Union, Hogan also said he would have opposed the appointment of Dr. Parvez Ahmed — a Muslim — to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. The appointment of Ahmed, a Fulbright Scholar and UNF Professor, sparked conflict among the city council and members of controversial group ACT! for America. Hogan said that, if elected mayor, he would abolish the commission altogether.

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