Far-right activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman helped coordinate a fake campaign against Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg through a Medium post on Monday that accused the mayor of sexual assault.
The two men used fake social media accounts for a 19-year-old Ferris State University student named Hunter Kelly on Monday without his knowledge or consent to publish a vague post accusing the presidential hopeful of assault this past February.
Kelly — who spoke to The Advocate on Monday evening — denied these allegations and said that Wohl and Burkman not only used his identity to create the false story and accounts, but also flew him to Washington, D.C., the night before.
However, while he is currently in Washington to meet with them and even spent the night at Burkman's home, he says he did not agree to this tactic.
Wohl and Burkman picked up him from the airport Monday around 12:30 a.m. after his flight at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and then drove to Burkman's home. During the ride and at the house, Kelly says the two men discussed how they must stop the candidate's campaign for president.
Kelly woke up on Monday around 11 a.m. to find that they had used his name and likeness to launch the campaign, and told him that he was the "star and hero" for being central to their plot. However, the student maintains that he didn't agree with this.
"I woke up at 11 a.m. and spent my whole day saying I did not want this to happen," he says. "My sister and her husband came and got me."
As the allegations began to go viral, Kelly released the following statement Monday night from one of his two Facebook accounts. Friends of Kelly were able to corroborate with The Advocate that this statement was written by the actual student.
“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.
Thank you for standing behind me and knowing that I would never accept or allow any of this.”
In the wake of this news, Wohl remained largely quiet as many conservative outlets and colleagues who supported the original claim began to delete their posts — including Jacob's Wohl's father, David.
Burkman took to his Twitter to defend the story by posting photos that show a signed statement by Hunter Kelly that discuss an alleged assault involving Buttigieg, and a photo of the student with his student identification.
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
However, Kelly says the two men forced him to sign the statement and take the photo.
"They basically forced me to sign that and take that photo," Kelly told The Advocate shortly after this tweet. "I had no say in either. In the photo you can clearly see I had been crying."
Kelly adamantly denies being assaulted by Buttigieg and says he will be releasing more information at later date. But much of what he shared runs parallel with The Daily Beast reporting that uncovered larger efforts by Wohl and Burkman to persuade other conservative men to join them in their pursuits.
This news is developing news and has been updated. Check back here for more updates.