Anonymous online comments made by someone using the same IP address as state Rep. Jesse White rip his neighboring Democratic Caucus colleagues and call for the firing of two Range Resources officials.
The Observer-Reporter staff performed an archive search of articles on the newspaper’s website and found numerous comments from one user with the pseudonym Janice Gibson with an Internet Protocol address that matched White’s verified personal account.
The user of the fake name, which Cecil Township resident and advocate Janice Gibbs has said she believes is a parody of her, often engaged in lively discussions about the Marcellus Shale industry and even responds to comments made from White’s verified account. It takes on the natural gas industry, two area legislators and even the newspaper itself in a comment in response to a March 10 story called “Souring relations?” about how drilling has polarized the area.
“No one is talking about banning drilling – that’s just a Range Resources talking point. Men like (Robinson Township Supervisor) Brian Coppola and Jesse White are doing their jobs by keeping these companies accountable while others like (state Sen. Tim) Solobay and (state Rep. Brandon) Neuman look the other way and hope no one notices. Guess what – we notice. It’s not going to be hard to realize who was looking out for the community and who was looking out for themselves.”
The comment came nearly 16 hours after White posted on the story from his verified account. A search found the two comments had an identical IP address.
The person using the Gibson pseudonym with that same IP address also posted a comment on a March 7 editorial called “Not making friends, influencing people” and demanded two Range Resources officials be fired.
“The solution is simple – RANGE RESOURCES MUST FIRE MATT PITZARELLA AND JIM CANNON. These ‘psy ops’ tactics are backfiring and must end.”
These revelations come a day after KDKA-TV reported it had linked White to a pseudonym that was used to attack area residents in the comments section of a Marcellus Shale blog. Reached for comment Friday afternoon, White again apologized for making anonymous comments on various message boards and declined to discuss the individual posts.
“As I acknowledged (Thursday), I assumed various aliases to post comments online anonymously – actions which I acknowledge were wrong and for which I apologized,” White wrote in an email statement. “I will not be commenting further on any specific instances or allegations. It is time to put these matters behind us and focus on the important issues that matter to the people of our community – creating jobs, improving our economy and protecting our air, water and land.”
But White might be explaining his Internet presence to Democratic Party officials soon. Democratic Caucus spokesman Bill Patton said legislators plan to meet with him next week to discuss the situation, although he wouldn’t speculate about what would happen.
None of the IP addresses researched by the Observer-Reporter staff matched government-listed numbers, and Patton said White does not use a state-issued computer for work. Patton said it appears no laws or policies were broken, but he admitted “the revelations were troubling.”
“Rep. White acknowledged he made a mistake and acted unwisely,” Patton said. “We hope it won’t happen again, and we believe it won’t.”
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania GOP spokeswoman Valerie Caras had little to say about the issue and doubted there would be an investigation into the matter.
“At the end of the day, we expect the voters to hold him accountable for this heinous behavior,” Caras said.