An allegation of sexual assault against Mayor Pete Buttigieg by a young, gay Republican man was fabricated by two far-right activists.
Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman reportedly orchestrated the campaign against Buttigieg, a rising star among Democratic candidates for President, and were actively recruiting young men to make allegations against him, The Daily Beast reports.
On Monday, the men allegedly appropriated the identity of Hunter Kelly, a 21-year-old Ferris State University student, and wrote a vague post on Medium accusing Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him in a Washington, D.C. hotel in February.
Wohl and Burkman intended to stop Buttigieg’s upwards trajectory according to a Republican source, who told Daily Beast that the pair had approached him to make similar allegations against Buttigieg.
Kelly told The Advocate that Wohl and Burkman had flown him out to Washington the night before the Medium article was posted, but that he had not consented to its content nor agreed to be part of their plan.
Kelly, who said he had stayed in Burkman’s home after they collected him from Baltimore airport at 12:30 a.m. on Monday, claims he woke up to find the men had created fake social media accounts in his name and posted the article with him as the accuser.
He claims that Wohl and Burkman spoke about how to stop Buttigieg’s campaign during the car ride from the airport to D.C., and that they told him he was the “star and hero” of their plot after the Medium post went live.
“I woke up at 11 a.m. and spent my whole day saying I did not want this to happen,” he told The Advocate. “My sister and her husband came and got me.”
After Kelly claimed he hadn’t actively participated in the false allegations, Burkman posted on Twitter a statement Kelly had signed discussing the alleged assault, and a photo of Kelly holding his student ID.
“Very first thing Hunter Kelly did is sign a statement attesting to his accusation,” Bukrman wrote, adding, “He was in full control of all public disclosures, even taking a selfie with his ID to confirm his identity [for Medium].”
1. Very first thing Hunter Kelly did is sign a statement attesting to his accusation
2. He was in full control of all public disclosures, even taking a selfie with his ID to confirm his identity to @MediumSupport MSM bullied him & his family into submission pic.twitter.com/myXPc1YegL
— Jack Burkman (@Jack_Burkman) April 30, 2019
But Kelly told The Advocate that Burkman and Wohl “basically forced me to sign that and take that photo. I had no say in either. In the photo you can clearly see I had been crying.”
In a subsequent Facebook post, Kelly once again reiterated that he “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.
Thank you for standing behind me and knowing that I would never accept or allow any of this.”
In a statement to Daily Beast, Burkman insisted that Kelly had come to him for assistance.
“While we’re disappointed by his reaction today, I can’t imagine the stress he’s currently under,” Burkman said. “This is a difficult subject for anyone to face and unfortunately, as an attorney, there’s only so much I can do.”
Meanwhile, Buttigieg responded to the news by saying the accusation was false and it wouldn’t derail his campaign.
“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.”
Buttigieg has already tackled anti-gay animosity in his campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Earlier this month, a far-right columnist branded Buttigieg a “sodomite” and the “king of cocks,” and claimed Buttigieg couldn’t be president because men wouldn’t vote for someone “effeminate.”
And while Buttigieg was campaigning in Iowa, an anti-gay protestor dressed up as the presidential candidate and whipped Jesus while Satan watched and encouraged him.
Just last week, evangelical Trump supporter Franklin Graham said Buttigieg should ‘repent’ for being gay, accusing him of flaunting his sexuality and slamming his marriage to husband Chasten.
That outburst led to noted anti-gay Republican Rick Santorum defending Buttigieg, telling CNN’s New Day that if evangelicals are going to attack Buttigieg’s homosexuality as a sin, they shouldn’t turn a blind eye to Donald Trump’s three marriages and alleged infidelity.