Two far-right campaigners have been accused of attempting to recruit young men to make false allegations of sexual assault against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, a mayor from Indiana, is a rising star in the Democratic party. Unknown just a few months ago, he is now polling in third position in national polls.
The smear attempt emerged after a bogus allegation surfaced online, which was retracted on Facebook hours later.
In a detailed report from The Daily Beast, the accuser said that that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl tried to convince him to accuse the mayor of sexually assaulting him while he was under the influence of alcohol.
The men who allegedly orchestrated the smear apparently made clear that their goal was to stop Buttigieg’s momentum in the 2020 presidential race.
The man has asked to remain anonymous, but provided The Daily Beast with an audio recording of the meeting which appeared to back up his account. This recording was verified by audio experts. In the recording, Wohl refers to Buttigieg as a “terminal threat” to president Trump’s re-election chances.
After this, a post appeared on the site Medium from an individual named Hunter Kelly, which also alleges that Buttigieg sexually assaulted him. That post was tweeted by David Wohl, Jacob’s father, and re-posted by the site Big League Politics, which is known as a hotbed for far-right propaganda.
After The Daily Beast reached out to Kelly, he claimed to be unaware of this post or of several recently created social media accounts under his name. After being told of these alleged attempts to smear Buttigieg, Kelly also indicated that the allegation against Wohl and Burkman are true. Hours after being contacted by The Daily Beast, Kelly posted to Facebook: “I WAS NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.”
It's important for everyone to know that I was not sexually assaulted and would never falsely accuse anyone.
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.
Following the post on Facebook, Kelly told The Advocate that Wohl and Burkman flew him to Washington DC to participate in the scheme. Though when he realised the details of the plan, he did not consent to their publication of the allegations and wanted no further part in it.
In response to this troubling story, Buttigieg said:
It's not going to throw us.
Politics can be ugly sometimes but you have to face that when you're in presidential politics.
Sources told The Daily Beast that the men were assured that the scheme would make them wealthy and famous. Wohl invoked the fame of Dr Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his confirmation hearings last year.