When Forrest Rutherford starting making fun of the 1990s quartet Blues Traveler frontman John Popper on Twitter, he was just another internet troll. However, things took a turn last week when Popper started directing followers to Rutherford’s Versailles home.
Popper has been interacting with Rutherford on Twitter for about three years. Rutherford would tweet something making fun of Popper, and Popper would often reply.
“It was kind of like this really random person being the butt of the joke,” Rutherford said, later comparing their tweets to an “insult battle.”
Rutherford said they were often lighthearted, with Popper using emojis when responding. Rutherford admitted to “swinging for low-hanging fruit,” and making fun of Popper’s weight among other things when tweeting Popper.
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Their interactions escalated last week when Popper posted an aerial picture of Rutherford’s Versailles home from the Blues Traveler verified Twitter account with the address and caption “&this is the Rutherford Home in Versailles Kentucky … kind of a dump if U ask me … :).” The aerial photo was posted a second time that same day with the caption “&this is the Rutherford home in Versailles KY… I can only assume his parents are tied up in the basement2afford him rent.” Popper also posted Rutherford’s Facebook profile picture to the Blues Traveler Twitter account.
Rutherford said it all started when Popper “got into a feud with a few female writers” over things they had written about Popper.
“I was one of a number of people who started giving him flack for those comments,” Rutherford said.
In a statement to the website The Future Heart, which Popper also posted on his Twitter account, he confirmed that’s where their exchanges began.
Rutherford said from there, it became a “running joke,” where he would make fun of Popper on social media. Rutherford said it was made better because Popper would reply to the jokes.
“It became a thing where you can make fun of John Popper and he would reply,” Rutherford said. “It felt like he was in on the joke.”
Rutherford said to him, it seemed clear that Popper was “participating in this and found it funny.” It became less funny, however, when Popper posted the aerial photo with Rutherford’s address after Rutherford commented on Popper’s public Facebook page with a meme reading, “unblock me you coward.” Additionally, a Twitter bot account run by Rutherford mentioned Popper’s name around the same time.
Rutherford said Popper thought it was an “invasion of privacy,” and began tweeting about where he lived.
Rutherford, however, said he never meant to be a danger to Popper.
“It was a playful thing,” Rutherford said. “I never wanted someone to think I was a threat.”
Rutherford said since the photo of his house was posted, he has received several “mild death threats” that he didn’t view as serious. The most concerning thing he said he received was a photoshopped image of “ISIS getting ready to behead me” in front of the Google street view of his Versailles home. Rutherford said after seeing that, he opened an incident report with the Versailles Police Department. Rutherford said there have been no incidents at his house following the posts.
On Tuesday, Popper posted a statement to the Blues Traveler Twitter account, saying the feud “certainly reflects a stupid persistence in both myself and Mr. Rutherford.
“I will allow that I am not very sophisticated on twitter but I will also defend my freedom from harassment when I choose to engage in social activity,” Popper said in the statement.
Popper also said that he has been “doxed and assailed” by “Mr. Rutherford and his compatriots,” referencing when Rutherford posted on Popper’s Facebook.
In his statement, Popper said after Rutherford continued “under a twitter handle to assail me … I saw no option after repeated warnings he ignored, but to post his identity fully one time.” Popper said he doesn’t “wish Forrest any harm,” and “at no time did I wish this person ill.” Popper’s management was contacted by the Herald-Leader for further comment, but did not respond.
Rutherford said he feels “there’s an underlying indication that we would both like to move on.”
“I’m willing to … retire this and move on,” Rutherford said.
As of Friday, the aerial photos of Rutherford’s house remained on the Blues Traveler Twitter account and Rutherford published several tweets about the incident.
Monica Kast: 859-231-1320, @monicakastwku