A fake campaign to smear presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has been revealed to be the work of two far-right operatives who created a fake account of sexual assault by a college student, The Advocate's Zach Stafford reports.
Jacob Wohl, a right-wing Twitter provocateur, and Jack Burkman, a conservative lobbyist, reportedly created fake accounts for 19-year-old Hunter Kelly, a gay Republican. The Ferris State University student said he was in communication with the activists who flew him to the Washington, D.C., area earlier this week. There he spent the night at Burkman's home and when he awoke the next morning, Kelly said he found that social media accounts had been made in his name, with vague false claims that Buttigieg assaulted him. His sister and husband, who was armed, eventually came to the house to retrieve Kelly.
On Monday, a post on the blogging platform Medium was published, claiming to have been written by Kelly, which said Buttigieg sexually assaulted him back in February. That post has since been suspended.
Kelly told The Advocate he did not agree to the plot, and that soon after he found out what was happening, he also released a statement on Facebook, declaring he was not sexually assaulted. "I was approached by a political figure to come to DC to discuss political situations from the standpoint of a gay Republican," he wrote. "When I arrived they discussed Peter Buttigieg and started talking about how they would be working a campaign against him." He added that he is "working on a formal statement to give to everyone including the Buttigieg family."
According to The Daily Beast, Buttigieg responded to the allegations saying, "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."
Burkman defended his actions on Twitter, saying that Kelly signed a statement detailing the supposed allegations, but Kelly said he was forced to sign it. This is in line with further reporting by The Daily Beast showing that Burkman and Wohl, who are known for spreading conspiracy theories, have been looking for people to falsely claim that Buttigieg had assaulted them. One person who declined an offer for this scheme said Wohl reached back out to him to see if he had any friends to recommend to take them up on it.
Wohl is also known for faking death threats against himself, as well as a sexual assault claim against Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
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