News » Politics

Right Wing Smears Buttigieg with False Accusation of Sexual Assault

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Apr 30, 2019
Hunter Kelly
Hunter Kelly  

The news hit the Internet with hurricane force: A man named Hunter Kelly reportedly claimed that Democratic 2020 hopeful Pete Buttigieg, who is openly gay, had sexually accosted him. But it was a gale of skeptical contempt that greeted the story, not outrage or anger at Buttigieg; not even Republicans bought into the claim.

To top it all off, Hunter Kelly himself took to social media to expose the yarn as the fiction it was, and he made no bones about his name having been used for the smear without his consent.

"I WAS NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULTED," Kelly stated in a Facebook post.

"It's important for everyone to know that I was not sexually assaulted and would never falsely accuse anyone," Kelly's post added. "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."

But that was just the start.

"I went to bed and woke up to a fake Twitter @RealHunterKelly and an article that I in no way endorsed or wrote," Kelly's post continued. "I have since left and am working on a formal statement to give to everyone including the Buttigieg family."

In short: After being unwillingly co-opted by liars in a deliberate and malicious smear campaign, Kelly did the honorable thing and instantly sought to set the record straight.

Kelly closed out his post with: "Thank you for standing behind me and knowing that I would never accept or allow any of this."

The Daily Beast reported on the false accusations, and said that the smear campaign was the work of "A pair of right-wing provocateurs."

The article went on to name names, reporting that "A Republican source" had told the news site "that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg... of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent."

The article went on to say that the motive for the fabrication "was to kneecap Buttigieg's momentum in the 2020 presidential race," and added that the source in question had requested anonymity out of fear for his job - and also out of fear of Burkman and Wohl, who "have a reputation for vindictiveness."

The Daily Beast article went on to say that the source provided evidence for his account in the form of a recording that "corroborates" what he told the news site.

The purportedly false accusation was initially posted to Medium. It read, in part, "I am a gay man. I have been grappling with my identity for a number of years. I live, work, and attend college in rural Michigan. I know that by coming forward, I will make a hard life even harder. But I must do so?—?I must do so?—?for my country, for other gay men like me, and most importantly to stop a very bad man from becoming President of the United States."

Media accounts said that Kelly is a "gay Trump supporter," but even the ranks of gay Trump supporters were quick to voice their doubts when the claim appeared.

Former Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo took to Twitter to voice his skepticism, tweeting: "Not a fan of Mayor Pete but this whole thing seems shady as hell."

Added Angelo, "I certainly hope @Medium asked for and received proof/corroboration before running a story that has the potential to ruin a man's life."

The page at Medium was not accessible as of April 30. In its place, a message appeared reading, "This page is unavailable." Links to the original post ended up at the web address

The claim was not dissimilar in style and substance to an anonymous claim that was posted online last fall accusing Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of having perpetrated a sexual assault.

Those accusations were lengthy and detailed, and appeared at a Twitter account under the handle "Deep Throat." The story told in the post involves Booker allegedly dragging a man into a restroom and attempting to encourage him to perform oral sex.

Calling the alleged encounter "a perversion of [his] natural daily routine," the person making the accusation claimed that Booker told him, "The Senate appreciates fine citizens like you. Especially this Senator."

Right-wing sites piled onto the Booker account when it appeared, comparing the evidence-free claims to those leveled against Brett Kavanaugh before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

That ugly chapter in American jurisprudential history also cropped up in the fabrications that were invented in a purported bid to "kneecap" Buttigieg. The Daily Beast reported that the "Republican source" who made the recording said that Wohl and Burkman referenced that very episode in their unsuccessful attempt to recruit him.

As the Daily Beast reported:

When the source expressed reluctance, they assured him the scheme would make him wealthy, famous, and a star in Republican politics. Wohl cited the national recognition given to Christine Blasey Ford after she accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his confirmation hearings last year.

The pair seemed convinced that their initial lie would uncover a greater truth, The Daily Beast reported:

Wohl and Burkman described the source's role as a "catalyst" whose false allegations would prompt actual victims to come forward. They promised that a number of such victims were waiting in the wings.

Then again, maybe not.

Buttigieg reportedly took the high road, maintaining his famed composure even in the face of such atrocious lies.

"Politics can be ugly sometimes," he said, "but you have to face that when you're in presidential politics."

Wohl and Burkman denied inventing the story, reported Fox News.

Claimed Burkman, "This weekend my firm was approached by a young man who had a disturbing story about an assault he experienced at the hands of current presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg,."

"We began working with him on sharing his painful story and received a signed statement from him attesting to his account," Burkman added.

Burkman produced a photo he said was a statement about Buttigieg's supposed misdeeds. Kelly had allegedly signed the statement. Burklman also provided a photo of Kelly holding up his ID.

But Kelly told The Advocate that those pieces of purported evidence had also been manufactured by the pair.

"They basically forced me to sign that and take that photo," Kelly recounted. "I had no say in either."

Fox News recalled that last October - around the time of the anonymous account claiming Corey Booker had committed sexual assault - Wohl and Burkman allegedly attempted to smear Special Counsel Robert Mueller with similarly fabricated accusations of sexual assault.

The pair allegedly approached women to entice them into making false statements against Mueller, with The Atlantic reporting at the time that a woman calling herself Lorraine Parsons had reached to to journalists with a claim that Burkman had offered her around $20,000 to falsify such a claim against Mueller.

That plot was reportedly reported to the FBI, but the current status of any investigation that might have ensued is not known.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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