Far-right trolls Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman allegedly recruited gay Republican men to falsely accuse Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg of sexual assault.
The scam, an effort to aid President Trump in the 2020 election, came to light Monday when a dubious post appeared on Medium, published under the name Hunter Kelly. The article contained a vague accusation of sexual assault against Buttigieg and promised more information in the coming days. Only the real Kelly said that the post is made up and that he didn’t write it.
Kelly told VICE News that Wohl, a far-right conspiracy theorist, first contacted him through Signal, an encrypted messaging service, on April 25. Along with Burkman, a Republican lobbyist and far-right conspiracy theorist, Wohl was allegedly putting together a scheme to smear Buttigieg by fabricating rape allegations against him.
Kelly’s claims have been corroborated by the Daily Beast, which reported Monday night that Wohl and Burkman had approached a separate source to accuse Buttigieg of assault. That source provided the Daily Beast with an audio recording of Wohl referring to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to Trump in the 2020 election. The Daily Beast also reported that Wohl’s father had tweeted out the false story.
Kelly told VICE News that Wohl and Burkman arranged to fly him from his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Baltimore, to discuss a role in a “task force set up by the Donald Trump administration to slightly push back the progress” of Buttigieg’s campaign.
“Wohl pulled up his Macbook and showed me an article that was ‘just a draft,’ though was posted on April 28, 2019 (since deleted) to Medium where Wohl pretended to be me and spewed a bunch of hateful accusations at Buttigieg. I told him I was not sure how I felt," Kelly told VICE News.
Kelly told VICE News that Wohl wanted him to falsely accuse Buttigieg of assaulting Kelly at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Kelly also said that Wohl and Burkman posted the Medium article without his permission and created a fake Twitter account under his name to tweet about the accusation.
“Next thing I know, Jack Burkman is telling me how I am a ‘star’ and people are eating me up,” Kelly said. “I kept telling Jacob I was having regretful thoughts and told him I didn’t want to be involved. I was told that was not an option because turning back on what had been published would look bad.”
Kelly added: “I had never been to the Mayflower Hotel, nor did I ever wake up with Peter Buttigieg forcefully pulling down my pants like I was almost coerced into saying.”
Kelly expressed regret over his contact with Wohl and Burkman.
"I am, from the bottom of my heart, truly sorry for everyone involved in the very serious #MeToo movement,” he said. “I will continue to use my voice and HONESTY to make a difference. Jack Burkman may have promised me a lavish lifestyle, but at a price that would cost me two of the most important things to me: honesty and integrity."
Cover: Pete Buttigieg is joined by his husband Chasten Glezman before he announced that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination during a rally in South Bend, Ind., Sunday, April 14, 2019. Buttigieg, 37, is serving his second term as the mayor of South Bend. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)