A controversial former aide to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who resigned after he was caught attacking journalists online under a phony name online has been appointed senior adviser to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Peter Ragone served as a spokesperson for Newsom until 2007, when he admitted to badmouthing local reporters and political opponents in online news forums under the pseudonyms “John Nelson” and “Bjorn.”
Ragone reportedly attacked KGO-TV investigative reporter Dan Noyes as a “sad, sad guy,” and blasted one critic for allegedly having an “angry infatuation with Gavin Newsom” in the comments sections of local news outlets and blogs.
After the blog SFist tracked the IP address of “John Nelson” to Ragone’s home computer, the mayoral flack claimed Nelson was his “best friend” who often stayed at Ragone’s house.
“John Nelson is my best friend, and yes, he does stay at my house all the time,” Ragone said. “Our sons are best friends also. I think we have the same viewpoints on most things.”
Ragone later admitted to posting the comments, calling his actions “stupid.”
“The political blogosphere is a place where many people express their opinions in different ways,” he said. “As a rule, I shouldn’t be on the blogosphere, and it was a mistake.”
De Blasio’s office announced Ragone’s appointment on Monday, saying that he “will serve as a senior adviser for strategic planning, building on an extensive career as a spokesman and strategic adviser for mayors, governors, and federal officials.”
Former Mayor Willie Brown told KGO-TV at the time that the sock puppet scandal “raises serious questions about [Ragone’s] credibility and effectiveness. … As a journalist, how can you believe what he says?”
Before Ragone’s troubled stint in Newsom’s office he worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He worked at public affairs consultancy PWR, LLC after his 2007 resignation.
De Blasio’s office did not respond to request for comment. Ragone did not respond to inquiries at an email address listed to his name.
This is not the first controversial staffer for de Blasio, who has officially been in office for barely a week. The New York Post recently broke the story that de Blasio spokesperson Lis Smith was having an affair with disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer while the noted prostitute aficionado was still married.