A pair of right-wing provocateurs have been accused of attempting to recruit young Republican men to falsely allege that Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg sexually assaulted them.
The details of the operatives’ plot were exposed on Monday hours after an alleged “victim” of Buttigieg came forward, before retracting his sexual assault claim hours later.
A Republican source told The Daily Beast “that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent.”
The Daily Beast reports:
The source who spoke to The Daily Beast said Burkman and Wohl made clear that their goal was to kneecap Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race. The man asked to remain anonymous out of a concern that the resulting publicity might imperil his employment, and because he said Wohl and Burkman have a reputation for vindictiveness.
But the source provided The Daily Beast with a surreptitious audio recording of the meeting, which corroborates his account. In it, Wohl appears to refer to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to President Donald Trump’s reelection next year.
On Monday, an individual by the name of “Hunter Kelly” published a post on the site Medium in which he alleged that Buttigieg sexually assaulted him in February.
The post was then tweeted out by David Wohl, Jacob’s father, and shared by the right-wing site Big League Politics. (Jacob Wohl was recently banned from Twitter after boasting in an interview about how he used fake accounts to manipulate people. Last year, Wohl attempted to recruit a woman to make rape allegations against special counsel Robert Mueller.)
Two hours after he was contacted by the Daily Beast, the college student posted a message to his Facebook timeline headed, “I WAS NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.”
“It’s important for everyone to know that I was not sexually assaulted and would never falsely accuse anyone,” he wrote. “To keep it brief for now, I was approached by a political figure to come to DC to discuss political situations from the standpoint of a gay Republican. When I arrived they discussed Peter Buttigieg and started talking about how they would be working a campaign against him.”
“I went to bed and woke up to a fake Twitter @RealHunterKelly and an article that I in no way endorsed or wrote. I have since left and am working on a formal statement to give to everyone including the Buttigieg family.”
Asked about the allegation on Monday, Buttigieg called it made up. “It’s not going to throw us,” he said. “Politics can be ugly sometimes but you have to face that when you’re in presidential politics.”
The Daily Beast adds:
The man who told The Daily Beast that Wohl and Burkman approached him last week also described himself as a Trump supporter. He said he was connected to them by a friend in Republican politics, whom the duo had allegedly also pitched on the scheme. They met at a restaurant in the Washington area, where, the source said, both Burkman and Wohl introduced themselves using false names. Burkman assumed the alias of Matt Teller, the source said. Wohl, he said, just used the first name Bill.
The source added that he recognized Wohl because of his internet notoriety and decided to record their conversation, convinced that it could prove useful should any investigation be launched into the origins of the anti-Buttigieg scheme. The audio was provided on the condition that it not be published, so as not to reveal its source.