State Rep. Jesse White apologized Thursday for posting anonymous comments on a Marcellus Shale blog attacking natural gas drilling advocates living in Cecil Township.
White, D-Cecil, admitted to posting comments under fictitious names on the Energy In Depth website in the past after a KDKA television news report linked the anonymous postings to his Internet provider.
White denied he used state government equipment when making the comments, but admitted in a written statement that the comments were “an error in judgment that I regret.”
Officials at Energy In Depth, a natural gas drilling lobbyist based in Washington, D.C., did not immediately provide information on the IP addresses involved to cross-check the comments in question.
Some of the comments apparently targeted Cecil resident Janice Gibbs, who also was posting under the pseudonym of “Proud American” before being identified. Gibbs was criticized in comments from fictitious posters – one of them even impersonating her – for her support of the Marcellus Shale industry and said she was upset to later learn some of them might have come from White.
“I always kind of knew it was Rep. White,” Gibbs said. “It’s not just another citizen who has different views. It’s my state representative.”
In an interview with the Observer-Reporter Thursday morning, White denied making the anonymous comments and blamed it on political attacks by the natural gas industry trying to discredit him. But just a few hours later, the state House Democratic Caucus issued a statement that White “misspoke” and acknowledged he commented on the blog various times in the past.
It also raised questions of whether he had made anonymous comments on other media message boards. It could not immediately be determined whether White posted anonymous comments on the Observer-Reporter’s online edition before the commenting feature was disabled in March.
White posted a lengthy comment on his political Facebook page apologizing and offered to speak in private with Gibbs and Donald Roessler, who apparently also was targeted in the comments section.
“I apologize to Janice Gibbs and Donald Roessler for any action I’ve taken that may have been offensive or hurtful, and I will be extending a private invitation to meet with them to discuss our viewpoints face-to-face in an effort to find common ground and foster a more professional and respectful level of communication,” White wrote on the page.
However, he complained that anonymous attacks by the Marcellus Shale industry, and on EID’s message board in particular, led him to respond.
“My efforts have drawn the attention of multimillion-dollar energy industry groups like Energy In Depth, who have published numerous misleading and personal attacks against me in an attempt to distract people from the real issues and discredit my character,” White said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Caucus scrambled to produce evidence that the IP address used in the EID comments did not come from government equipment. A state GOP spokeswoman called White’s comments and behavior “deplorable,” but did not say if party leaders would launch an investigation into the matter.