LOSING THE PLOT
Mayor Pete Assault Accuser: This Was All a ‘Despicable’ Set-Up
Michigan college student Hunter Kelly says smear merchants Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman tricked him into being part of a hoax.
The young man who accused Mayor Pete Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him fully recanted the accusations on Tuesday, saying he was tricked, enticed, and even intimidated into doing so by two of the most notorious smear merchants in politics.
In a new post on Facebook, Hunter Kelly recounted how a Medium post under his name, in which he said that he had been “raped” by Buttigieg, was written without his input and posted without his permission by Jacob Wohl.
Wohl is an infamous conservative provocateur known mainly for the inanity of the schemes he concocts. But the one he crafted with Kelly may have been the most absurd to date—a bizarre Coen Brothers-like plan that fizzled out right as it took off.
For a week, Wohl had been attempting to find gay Republicans who would levy accusations against Buttigieg, according to at least one Republican who was on the receiving end of the pitch and recorded parts of it for The Daily Beast.
Kelly appears to be the only one who took the bait. In his latest explanation of what happened, the Michigan college student said that Wohl reached out to him via Signal on April 25 after the two had interacted over Instagram. Wohl then pitched him on a plan to take down Buttigieg by coming up with a story that the South Bend mayor had sexually assaulted him during a visit he took to D.C. in February. Kelly conceded that no such visit ever occurred. In fact, he’d never been to D.C.
Wohl, according to Kelly, said the scheme was part of a “‘task force’ set up by the Donald Trump administration.” There is, however, no evidence of the administration’s involvement; a request for comment from the White House was not returned.
Kelly said that Wohl and his similarly infamous cohort, lobbyist Jack Burkman, booked him a flight from Michigan to Baltimore. From there, they drove to Burkman’s home in Arlington where Wohl showed him a draft of a statement detailing the bogus accusations against Buttigieg.
Kelly said he expressed concerns about the scheme but Wohl told him to sleep on it. When Kelly woke at around 11 a.m., Wohl “was already dressed in a suit because he ‘can’t do a Monday if he isn’t in a suit’” and—of more significance—the fabricated statement had been posted to Medium, along with fake Twitter and Gmail accounts in Kelly’s name.
According to Kelly, Burkman tried to calm his nerves by claiming that he was a “‘star’ and people are eating me up.”
The trio, according to Kelly, ate Subway sandwiches, during which Kelly continued to express his regrets. Burkman and Wohl tried to calm him down by promising to purchase “any house I wanted” and insisting that his family would “get over it.”
The two had plans for Kelly to follow up his initial accusations against Buttigieg with a press conference but they needed Kelly to sign off on the script. Kelly said that, at this point, the duo turned to intimidation, telling him that backing out and leaving was “not an option.”
Ultimately, Kelly extricated himself from the situation. “I pretended to be tired and ‘nap’ as a chance to pack my belongings while family was on their way to grab me,” he wrote. “Once I was told my family had arrived, I rushed downstairs and told Wohl I could not do this because that is not the type of person I am.”
Kelly said he was sorry he ever left Michigan.
“Jack Burkman may have promised me a lavish lifestyle, but at a price that would cost me the two most important things to me: honesty and integrity. Had I gone forward with this despicable scheme they concocted, I would have lost both of those things and became another one of their useless pawns.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Burkman acknowledged that he had worked with Kelly. But he insisted that Kelly had approached his firm with the story and not the other way around. Kelly, for his part, appears to be trying to make amends. In addition to posting about his recollections of his time with Wohl and Burkman, he also sent an email to Buttigieg’s office in South Bend.
A spokesperson for the mayor told The Daily Beast that the general email account received a note from someone they believe to be Kelly, in which there was a screenshot of a statement he had made recanting his initial accusations.
“We haven’t engaged and aren’t planning to engage on it,” said Mark Bode, a spokesman for the mayor’s office.