Thursday, December 17, 2015

Louisiana pastor who killed himself in the wake of Ashley Madison hack had a history of emotional problems, his wife says in new report about fallout

John and Christi Gibson
A Louisiana pastor who committed suicide after his name appeared in data at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site had a history of emotional problems, his wife says in a recent report about fallout from the highly publicized hack.

John Gibson, a teacher at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, killed himself on or about August 24, roughly six days after his name appeared on a list of Ashley Madison (AM) customers released by a hacking group called Impact Team. A number of suicides, including two in Canada, have been linked to the AM hack, but reporting has been murky on most of the cases. The death of John Gibson marks by far the most widely and solidly reported suicide tied to Ashley Madison revelations.

In an article published last week, reporter Kristen V. Brown wrote that Gibson had suffered from a number of addiction problems for years--some of them apparently related to sex. Gibson's wife, Christi, says her husband died, not from the hack, but from a life that had become shrouded in secrecy and false appearances. From the Fusion article:

Christi Gibson lost her husband, a New Orleans pastor, after his name was released in the leak. John Gibson had long struggled with sex addiction and depression. She only discovered her husband’s presence on the site upon reading the note she found along with his body. In it, he confessed his feelings of deep shame and remorse.

After her husband’s suicide, Gibson agreed to interviews with nearly every media outlet that called. She was on a mission to prevent secrets from having the power to destroy people’s lives. If her husband had been honest, she reasoned, he would probably still be alive.

“My life was shattered by secrecy and lies — not by the hack,” she wrote me via e-mail.

In her view, the problem isn’t so much that hackers unleashed stores of sensitive information, but that any of us keep secrets from one another in the first place.

Christi Gibson provided more details in an interview with The Washington Post:

For 25 of their almost 30 years of marriage, Gibson and her husband struggled with his sex addiction. She knew that he struggled and had relapsed over and over again. She did not know that he had used Ashley Madison until she read his suicide note, however. In it, her husband talked about his depression and his deep remorse and shame over having his name be among those found in the adultery Web site’s database.

“He struggled with addiction and with depression and those were two things that he couldn’t — as much as he was willing to help other people and do for other people — he couldn’t conceive that somebody would help him and do it for him in that kind of situation,” Christi said. “The shame of this really was just more than what he could take.”

Christi Gibson has become an outspoken advocate for truth in relationships. It was her husband's secrecy, more than the hack, that led to his death, she says. From the Post article:

As a minister and a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the possibility that his secret life might have been exposed in the leak was simply too much.

And it was for that reason that Gibson and her children decided to go public with their family’s once-private shame and tragedy.

“The shame is in the secrecy and the hiddenness and the lie of this,” Gibson said. “Ashley Madison doesn’t advertise, ‘Hey come have an affair and let’s make it public.’ The whole idea, the allure of a site like this, is the anonymity and the darkness and the hiddenness of it.

“We believe that there’s freedom in the truth,” she added. “If we can speak out and say ‘find a safe person and talk to them, get help with what you’re going through,’ then it doesn’t make our pain go away, but it redeems it.”

Gibson's ties to the church probably made it more difficult for him to work through his struggles with addiction:

“I think what happens to someone who is a minister is that they start thinking of themselves as having to be perfect,” Gibson said. “They start believing that in order for them to help others, in order for them to lead others and minister to others, they have to be flawless themselves.

“It’s wrong thinking,” she added. “Every single story in the Bible of a leader or someone that God really used is a story of someone who is really flawed.”

So, could she have forgiven him?

“I think,” she said, pausing for a moment. “And I hope that John and I would have been able to work through this together had he come to me and said, ‘I’ve done this. I’m so sorry. Can we work through this together?’ I’ll never know because he didn’t let me do that.

“I don’t want to get out here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I could have forgiven it,’ and make myself look like a person who can do anything, because I don’t know,” she added. “I hope and pray that I would have been able to forgive because in the past, God’s given me the grace to be able to do that.”


Anonymous said...

This is a very sad story. Wonder if this guy tried to get help for his sex addiction. The proper therapy and treatment might have kept him away from Ashley Madison.

The Todd said...

Hang in there, LS. Most of the naysayers on your AM coverage probably are on one of the lists themselves--or someone close to them is on the lists. These folks couldn't care less about someone else being outed. They are just scared s--tless that THEY are going to be outed.

You are doing a public service and big-time journalism. Onward and upward.

Anonymous said...

Christi Gibson is a brave woman. Props to her for speaking out, on a subject most of us don't want to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Tiger Woods had a big-time issue with sex addiction and received treatment for it, somewhere in Mississippi, I think.

legalschnauzer said...

You are on target, @2:55, and your comment came just as I was trying to think of other famous cases of sex addiction. I remembered former baseball star Wade Boggs, but I had forgotten about Tiger. Don't know how I could do that, since his is probably the most widely reported case of sex addiction yet.

Anonymous said...

I think Roger has officially "jumped the shark" in his AM coverage. This isn't journalism, this is tabloid reporting. You are trying to destroy lives for your own benefit. I just don't think two wrongs make a right here.

Anonymous said...

Basically Schnauzer you are saying that quite of few people on this list may have mental health issues, sex addiction, depression, which is probably true. The fact they are on the list is suggestive to me that they were at a low point in their lives. Sure they made a big mistake in signing up to a seedy website and the fact they did is one to be resolved in their families, is it really our business as strangers to hound them? Does anyone want to contribute to other suicides?

legalschnauzer said...

"Destroying lives for my own benefit?" Where on earth do you get this, @8:26. How does journalism destroy someone's life? Perhaps we should do away with the free-press guarantee in the First Amendment because it could lead to hurt feelings, embarrassment, or destroyed lives? Even the ex wife of Pastor Gibson says reporting on Ashley Madison, or even the hack itself, had nothing to do with his suicide. And how would I benefit from destroying someone else's life, even if I had that power (which I don't)? Can you point to anything in my career that suggests my approach to journalism is driven by such considerations?

Anonymous said...

The only reason I come to this site is to see the day LS gets sued. In my opinion something happened to LS in the past that's causing this poor judgement. The way I see it is LS was affected in the past by someone with power, and now he wants to stick it to the man. This site makes him feel better about himself. Kind of sad really. To be in such a place in your later years holding on to such a burden. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I hope you figure things out LS. Must suck every day to wake up and feeling the need to report on other people's mistakes. If you debate what I'm saying here, you'll never get it. It's all about inner peace, and these actions of yours will never help you get there...

legalschnauzer said...

Sounds like you live to see someone stick it to me, so you are worse off than you claim I am. You don't even know me, but you can't wait to see me get sued. And you think something is wrong with me? Look in the mirror, my friend. You say it's all about "inner peace," but you clearly don't have it. That makes your words ring hollow.

You want something bad to happen to someone you don't know, who has done nothing to you, and has done nothing wrong to anyone else. If I want to "stick it to the man"--and I'm not saying your analysis is correct about that--at least I know who "the man" is, I know what he's done, and I know how to find him. Also, I've been bold enough to the let "the man" know who I am. And I've paid a high price--a lawless arrest, unlawful loss of our home, unlawful beat down on my wife, resulting in a broken arm.

You haven't even identified yourself, so you come across as both a coward and someone who doesn't have the foggiest clue about "inner peace." Must suck to wake up every day hoping bad happens to someone you don't even know.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to see you get sued LS. You misunderstood my comments. I do think you are your worst enemy however, and I feel sorry for you. I don't think the benefits of you reporting about this subject out weigh the risks. That's it. A long time ago I had my own site when I liked to call people out. Yes, the reason I did it was because I personally had a lack of inner peace and I wasn't happy with myself. So you're right in a way. Where you're wrong is when you say I want something bad to happen to you. I don't. However if you continue down this path of calling all these men out with a lot of money I don't see it ending well. Trust me, I've been there myself and it isn't worth it. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, including you.

legalschnauzer said...

Well, if you feel sorry for me and want to help, contact me via private e-mail (at least I think it's private) at Would be glad to set up a time for further discussion.