White’s Online Antics Are No Laughing Matter

Beaver County Times

As you might have heard, Friend of the Column/Washington County Democratic state Rep. Jesse White — who represents a sliver of Beaver County until 2015 — got caught in a mess of his own making last week when it was revealed that he has been anonymously bashing constituents who support Marcellus shale drilling. Yes, constituents.

White claims he did so after getting slammed by pro-drilling forces in online anonymous posts, but that’s not much of an excuse. Too judgmental?

Well, if anyone knows about getting hammered by anonymous trolls — online and otherwise — it’s us.

We’ve been the subject of the most vicious attacks imaginable. Even our family hasn’t been spared. Do we like it? Of course not, but we never considered creating online personas to retaliate. We just don’t care that much about them … and we’re lazy … but mostly apathetic. Oh, and we have a column. That, too.

Jesse, though, started anonymously insulting a pro-drilling grandmother online. KDKA-TV’s Andy Sheehan nailed White for posting attacks on her and others. White, Sheehan reported, also posted comments in Grandma’s name on a pro-drilling website for Energy-in-Depth, which traced the comments to White’s state email address. Oops.

Calling your own constituents trolls and other insulting names is bad enough, but White also used “whore” to describe some women who support drilling. And then there was the anti-drilling website registered in White’s name that got re-registered after Sheehan asked questions.

Jesse initially went to Facebook to paint himself as the victim of gas industry persecution. A few hours later, he posted a sort-of apology on Facebook to grandma and a farmer whose business he tried to wreck and regretting his “error in judgment.” No, running a red light is an error in judgment, Jesse. This seems to have been all-out online guerilla warfare.

To top it off, White apparently lied to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington Observer-Reporter about his posting anonymous comments. Oh, boy.

GOPers quickly jumped on White’s debacle, pointing out that he was the only vote against a bill passed by the House last fall that set criminal penalties for impersonating people online before recently supporting a similar bill.

The state GOP also started pulling Democratic candidates for governor into the mix, which we’re sure made them happy. GOP state Rep. Jim Christiana, who has sparred with White in the past, said that “harassing and humiliating constituents is the most unacceptable thing an elected official can do.” Kind of hard to disagree, isn’t it?

Christiana said WashCo residents were calling his office Friday demanding White’s resignation. “Either he steps down on his own or the electorate will take care of it eventually,” said Christiana, who will represent parts of WashCo in 2015 if re-elected.

It’s hard for us to say because we like Jesse, but this debacle has destroyed his credibility. Jesse’s passion for politics and people has always been evident, but this time that passion led him astray and has crippled his ability to be an effective legislator.

We understand White’s frustration with anonymous critics, but he crossed the line into cyber bullying his own constituents. If Christiana had done such a thing, we know what White would’ve said. He might want to consider that as he ponders his political future.