PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A state lawmaker accused of using fake names online to criticize supporters of gas drilling is saying he’s sorry.
KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan broke the story about Rep. Jesse White of Washington County. But the targets of the online attacks say the apology is not accepted.
First he denied our findings, and then he stonewalled.
“I have no comment on the repeated personal and political attacks put on me by the propaganda wing of the natural gas industry,” said Rep. White.
But now, in a Facebook post, anti-drilling state Rep. White concedes that he did in fact use fictitious names and aliases on the Internet to attack pro-gas supporters.
White called his actions an “error in judgment” that he regrets, and he offered apologies to two of the people he attacked, but they were having none it.
“I don’t think it’s sincere,” said Janice Gibbs, a Marcellus Shale supporter. “He did something wrong and now he’s trying to backtrack and he thinks this is going to make it right.”
Sheehan: “It’s not?”
Gibbs: “It’s not.”
The fictitious poster “Harold” called pro-drilling grandmother Gibbs names like “an uneducated yinzer,” “dumber than a box of rocks” and “an embarrassment to her community.”
Then, White used the name “Janice Gibson” and Gibbs’ real name, “Janice Gibbs,” to call her names like “local mole.” To Gibbs, this is inexcusable.
“You don’t use people’s names. I don’t think he would appreciate it if someone used his name,” said Gibbs. “I think he would be totally outraged with it and that’s how I feel right now is outraged and hurt.”
“He’s gone as far as actually insulting me, insulting my intelligence,” said Donald Roessler, a farmer.
White’s post also apologizes to Roessler who he attacked under the name “Prouder American.” White also identified Roessler’s farm and advised people to boycott his crops.
On the phone, Roessler said he also would not accept White’s apology, and said he – like Gibbs – would not accept an invitation from White to meet.
“I have one word for Jesse White,” Roessler told KDKA. “Resign.”
White did not return KDKA’s phone calls requesting an interview on camera. But in his statement, he said his postings were not made on a state computer and state resources were not misused.
He also says his actions were in response to anonymous attacks on him by the “multi-million dollar energy industry,” and he vowed to “keep asking the tough questions and standing up for what I believe in.”
Gibbs says that all sounds like a justification.
“He still wants to bash the industry,” said Gibbs. “He still wants to bash the industry. He still wants to say it’s his First Amendment right, and then he apologizes.”
The targets of the attacks are not in a forgiving mood, and whether the state representative faces any more consequences for his actions remains to be seen.