Aimée Jeansonne Becka, senior director for corporate communications at SeaWorld, told The Dodo that the parks would not comment on the spying situation beyond the released statement as it related to "confidential business information," but that Jacobs resigned and was not fired.
The source also told The Dodo that Jacobs was the one who directed McCombe to use the director of security's address as a false address. "Fred Jacobs authorized that," the person said.
"SeaWorld tried to get rid of him [Jacobs] to eliminate the loose ends," the source said, adding that Thursday's statement of guilt came only "when it became clear that they could not avoid being caught for the moles that they paid to infiltrate [the animal welfare groups]."
The spying wasn't the first time SeaWorld used questionable tactics to silence opponents. Last year, when former trainer-turned-SeaWorld critic John Hargrove released a book detailing his experiences at SeaWorld, the company released a years-old video of Hargrove drunk and using racial slurs in an effort to discredit him.
Hargrove, who has publicly apologized for the video, told The Dodo on Thursday that Jacobs was the one who released the video and sent it directly to the media himself - an unusual move for a VP at a billion-dollar company.
"He called me a liar and said I lied about food deprivation and lied in Blackfish and of course doesn't say how I was lying," Hargrove said. "You can't just publicly call someone a liar in the middle of their book tour when there's proof in the animal training records ... proof we used food deprivation all the time."
"It was alleged that Fred Jacobs was fired," Hargrove said. "They didn't make a big announcement. And then he wasn't allowed to answer questions from reporters."
"It's obvious that they tried to sneak that away from the public," he added.
In Thursday's statement, SeaWorld said that it had directed management to end the spying practice, which it says was a response to "credible threats."
McCombe at a protest.PETA