A racist grifter and a conspiracy theorist were reportedly caught trying to smear Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg by soliciting fake claims of sexual assault from anyone who would sign on.
In a report Monday, The Daily Beast described an apparent plot concocted by Jacob Wohl ― who earlier this year allegedly made terroristic threats against himself while harassing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) ― and conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman. The report says Wohl and Burkman tried to convince various Republicans to falsely accuse Buttigieg of attacking them, in order to shift the momentum of his presidential campaign.
One such Republican said Wohl approached him and asked him to accuse Buttigieg of assaulting him while he was drunk. He declined, and later provided the Beast with audio that reportedly corroborated his account.
Eventually, according to the Beast, Wohl and Burkman found their mark: They reportedly created fake social media accounts for a 19-year-old Ferris State University student named Hunter Kelly, and published a Medium post under his name on Monday that described fake allegations of sexual assault. The post has since been deleted.
Kelly told The Advocate he was in close contact with Wohl and Burkman, but he claims he had nothing to do with the Medium post and didn’t agree to have his name used for the smear campaign. Later, in a Facebook post, Kelly said he was “not sexually assaulted” and that he was duped into signing on to the smear.
“I was approached by a political figure to come to DC to discuss political situations from the standpoint of a gay Republican,” he wrote. “I went to bed and woke up to a fake Twitter @RealHunterKelly and an article that I in no way endorsed or wrote.”
Story continues below...
Wohl and Burkman reportedly did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Beast. However, after the Beast’s story was published, Burkman claimed in a tweet Monday night that Kelly signed a “statement attesting to his accusation.” He also posted a picture of Kelly holding his school I.D.
The Republican who declined to work with Wohl and Burkman said they promised him he’d become a rich and famous political figure if he participated in the plot. He said they cited Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as an apparent example of how much he stood to gain, according to the Beast.
“It’s not going to throw us,” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told the Beast on Monday. “Politics can be ugly sometimes but you have to face that when you’re in presidential politics.”