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Of Course Jacob Wohl Is Behind the Fake Sexual Assault Allegations Against Pete Buttigieg

How is he not in prison yet?

Pete Buttigieg bites his lips, presumably to keep from laughing at how bad Jacob Wohl is at crime.

Yesterday, a brief personal story was published on Medium under the name Hunter Kelly, accusing presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him. The writer said that this happened in February of this year, and that he would be sharing more details “in the days and weeks ahead.” Whether Buttigieg is your first-choice Democrat, your last, or if you just don’t care about the 2020 race, that’s beside the point. This was devastating. Any allegations of sexual assault are.

But just one day later, the essay itself has been deleted and Kelly’s account suspended. According to a report from The Daily BeastKelly’s accusations were nothing more than a manufactured smear campaign, orchestrated by some familiar figures: professional troll Jacob Wohl and lobbyist Jack Burkman.

If those names sound familiar, it’s because they’ve tried this sort of stunt before. As with this case, their hoaxes always fall apart incredibly quickly because these men are very bad at crime. And yet they keep trying.

Back in November, Wohl and Burkman reportedly founded a company (the inaccurately named Surefire Intelligence) to hire a (possibly made-up) woman to accuse special counsel Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct. They shopped the story around to multiple reputable journalists, apparently fooling none of them. Since no outlet would publish their fake story, the two decided to hold their own embarrassing press conference, even after a number of reporters outed them publicly as frauds.

More recently, Wohl filed a false police report over nonexistent death threats he said were made by supporters of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, while Wohl was in Minneapolis making a documentary about the congresswoman.

For the Buttigieg accusations, Wohl apparently didn’t learn anything from his past failings. According to The Daily Beast, he and Burkman created another fake company to add legitimacy to their schemes, the Potomac Intelligence Group. TDB writes that “Minutes after The Daily Beast reached out to Wohl and Burkman, the Potomac Intelligence website was taken down, [Burkman’s alias Matt] Teller’s LinkedIn page was deleted, and both of the company’s phone numbers were disconnected.”

Kelly was not the first man Wohl and Burkman approached. Another man, who chose to remain anonymous because “the resulting publicity might imperil his employment, and because he said Wohl and Burkman have a reputation for vindictiveness,” met the two for dinner in Washington D.C., where they introduced themselves using pseudonyms. Wohl, however, is a fairly recognizable internet troll, so the man says he knew something was up and decided to record their conversation. That audio, provided to TDB, includes Wohl referring to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to Donald Trump’s presidency.

That man, who is a Trump supporter but apparently not the sort of cretin who would weaponize sexual assault allegations against an opponent, refused the offer. Wohl and Burkman reportedly “assured him the scheme would make him wealthy, famous, and a star in Republican politics.” They cited Christine Blasey Ford as an example of the sort of fame he could expect, apparently thinking nonstop death threats are a welcome form of attention.

When that man refused, the inept pair then contacted Kelly, a college student, and flew him to D.C. Kelly says he refused their offer, and in a Facebook post written Monday, he denies giving consent for them to use his name.

“I WAS NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULTED,” the post reads. “It’s important for everyone to know that I was not sexually assaulted and would never falsely accuse anyone.”

He goes on to say, “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.”

There are two big takeaways here. The first is that Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman are just so very bad at crime. They should really stop trying, but also, it’s pretty funny to watch them keep trying and failing so miserably and so publicly.

The second is that it’s not only despicable to use the idea of sexual assault as a prop in a political war, but it’s also seriously ineffective. There will be plenty of rape deniers and apologists who pocket this as an example of how often fake accusations are made, but in reality, it’s an example of how easily fake accusations are to spot. No one should let an obvious sham like this one deter them from believing real victims of assault.

(via The Daily Beast, image: Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.