Yesterday, an article supposedly written by a gay man appeared on Medium accusing South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg of sexual assault. Now The Daily Beast is reporting that the accusation was false and part of a larger attempt by a far-right activist to derail Buttigieg’s campaign.
Yesterday’s Medium article provided little information about the sexual assault allegation, other than that Buttigieg had sexually assaulted a 19-year-old student in Michigan named Hunter Kelly this past February. A cursory look at Kelly’s social media accounts showed that he was a support of Donald Trump and the Log Cabin Republicans.
The story was immediately picked up by rightwing media outlets, including Gateway Pundit, which is run by gay Republican Jim Hoft, aka “the dumbest man on the internet.”
An unnamed source spoke with The Daily Beast and provided more information, saying that disgraced hedge fund manager and Gateway Pundit writer Jacob Wohl and lobbyist Jack Burkman have been trying to convince young Republican gay men to accuse Buttigieg of sexual assault.
The source said that Burkman and Wohl approached him to get him to accuse Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him while he was too drunk to consent. He recorded the encounter, which The Daily Beast says corroborates his story.
In the recording, Burkman and Wohl say that their goal is to end Buttigieg’s campaign, saying it’s a “terminal threat” to Trump’s reelection chances next year.
Kelly, whose name appears in the byline of the Medium article, said that he did not write it and has no control over “his” account on that site, nor does he have access to a newly created Twitter account with his name on it.
On Facebook, he wrote about the accusation under the title “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.
Kelly spoke to The Advocate and denied the allegations, saying that he was flown out to D.C. by Wohl and Burkman late Sunday night. He sent a screenshot of his ticket and part of a conversation with Wohl to The Advocate.
He said Burkman and Wohl picked him up at the airport and discussed how they were going to bring down the Buttigieg campaign. Kelly fell asleep in Burkman’s home and woke up the next morning to find that they had used his picture and name to write the Medium article.
They said Kelly was a “star and hero.”
“I woke up at 11 a.m. and spent my whole day saying I did not want this to happen,” Kelly said. “My sister and her husband came and got me.”
Burkman and Wohl haven’t responded to requests for comment, but Burkman defended the story on Twitter. He posted a picture of Kelly with his student ID and a signed statement saying that he was sexually assaulted by Buttigieg.
“He was in full control of all public disclosures, even taking a selfie with his ID to confirm his identity to @MediumSupport,” Burkman wrote.
The mainstream media, according to Burkman, “bullied him & his family into submission.”
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
“They basically forced me to sign that and take that photo,” Kelly told The Advocate. “I had no say in either. In the photo you can clearly see I had been crying.”
This isn’t the first time Burkman and Wohl have been involved in a plot to use false sexual assault allegations to attack political enemies.
Last year, the two were accused of promising to pay a woman $20,000 to falsely accuse special counsel Robert Mueller of sexually harassing her in the 70’s.
In 2014, Jack Burkman claimed he was working on legislation to ban gay men from the NFL.