PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There are new developments after a KDKA investigation uncovered accusations that a state lawmaker is hiding behind online aliases to attack supporters of Marcellus Shale drilling in the area.
Her name is Elizabeth Cowden. She’s a pro-gas drilling township supervisor in Cecil. Recently, someone posting on the Internet under the fictitious name Frank Reynolds called her a liar.
Then, to make matter worse, someone posting under the name Lizzie Cowden made it appear that Cowden was calling herself a liar: “I’ll tell you who else is lying, me! It’s amazing what you people will believe.”
“I’m not a liar, and I don’t know who’s done this. I have my suspicions, but I can’t prove it,” said Cowden.
Cowden can’t prove but suspects that the person behind the posts is none other than the anti-drilling state Rep. Jesse White.
“If it is our state legislator, this greatly saddens me,” said Cowden. “But whoever did this, I believe is a coward.”
Cowden’s story is strikingly similar to that of Janice Gibbs who was attacked by the fictitious Reynolds and others, and then by someone posting under the name Janice Gibson and even under her own name, Janice Gibbs.
When these names appeared on the pro-industry website, Energy InDepth, they were traced to the same IP — or Internet protocol address — as White’s state email.
“I feel violated that an elected official would go this far,” she said.
Under repeated questioning, White would not deny it.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Why would you use her name and post things in her name. She feels violated, and if it’s not legally wrong, it’s at least ethically wrong.”
White: “Again, I have no comments on the continued personal and political attacks.”
Other pro-gas supporters say they’ve been attacked under a host of fictitious names, but if White is behind these posts, it would not be the first time he’s used the Internet to attack opponents.
Two years ago, a Washington County jury ruled that White’s posts – under his own name – libeled and defamed a Robinson Township committee man named Raymond Bish.
“Mr. White launched into a despicable attack on him,” said lawyer Charles Kurowski.
Kurowski said the attacks were personal and unprovoked; Bish merely was supporting a candidate other than White.
“I’ve had people not support me and I don’t go on some vicious tirade and plaster their names over the Internet and Facebook. That’s wrong for a lawyer and legislator to do that,” said Kurowski. “He has a public trust that he should not betray.”
Cowden says the posts calling her a liar began appearing after she had a falling out with White.
Cowden: “I contributed heavily to his campaigns over the years, but in the last year or two I stopped, and perhaps that’s the reason.”
Sheehan: “Because you stopped giving him money?”
Late Thursday, White posted what appears to be an admission and apology on his Facebook page.
He says that industry groups have attacked him under anonymous and fictitious names online, so he “responded in kind,” which he regrets.
State Rep. White Accused Of Attacking Shale Supporters Online (5/29/13)
More Reports from Andy Sheehan