The online world of Jesse White
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Despite the recent convictions of eight ex-legislative leaders and a history of corruption since the Civil War, there is a code of honor among Pennsylvania legislators. Your word is your bond. It's critical to succeeding.
State Rep. Jesse White's online antics — creating fictitious characters and using aliases to anonymously blast his critics — went way over the line. The Cecil Democrat admitted using phony names and photos online to rail against natural gas drilling and to criticize pro-drilling constituents. He was by his own admission “Victoria Adams” and “Janice Gibson.” He issued apologies to two constituents.
But those who have watched him for a while claim he was doing a lot more, including anonymously blasting some of his colleagues, occasionally in a crude way. Those who appear to have been hit by White's anonymous posts include Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Washington County, House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-York County, Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, and Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler County.
Two district attorneys, in Washington and Dauphin, are investigating to see if any crimes were committed. It remains to be seen.
In the end, White's problems might be more political than legal; anonymously criticizing colleagues is a lethal activity in the state Legislature.
There might have been many more aliases than “Victoria” and “Janice.” White is in an unfortunate position, given what he did, in that he could be blamed for some posts that weren't his. Sadly, he brought that on himself.
Longtime watchers of White's activity, along with people he has criticized, suspect he had quite a few more names, including “Ashley Jackson” and “Texas Timmy,” the latter mocking Sen. Solobay.
“Ashley Jackson's” Facebook page was taken down on May 31 as Trib reporters were making inquiries to White and Democrat leadership about it. White declined to answer questions about whether he had used “Jackson” or “Texas Timmy.”
Christiana said he booted “Ashley Jackson” and “Victoria Adams” off his Facebook. He rarely turns anyone down and believes taking criticism is part of the job. But the posts from them were just “relentless,” he said.
“They were critical of me. They were critical of natural gas. They were critical of education reform. I just blocked them,” Christiana said. Any doubt in your mind it was Jesse? “None,” Christiana said.
White claims he used a “stock photo” to depict “Victoria Adams,” but other photos have surfaced. It raises the question — if this was White's doing — of how he got them and whose photos were used.
This is not a column aiming to address all White wrote or is believed to have written or all his aliases. The point is that some Pennsylvania lawmakers who were criticized strongly suspect it was White. He has not denied it. And that cripples his ability to be effective in the House.
The House Democrat leadership appears to be out of patience.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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