Two pro-Trump conspiracy theorists recruited a Ferris student to falsely accuse a presidential candidate of rape.
Openly gay Republican Hunter Kelly, 21, said that he began talking to Jacob Wohl, one half of the conservative conspiracy theory duo, via Instagram on April 24. In a written statement, Kelly said Wohl messaged him “Do you want to be part of a political operation,” and on April 25 he had his first phone conversation with Wohl.
Kelly graduated from Ferris in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in general business and is currently enrolled in Ferris’ master’s program for business administration. An avid Trump supporter, his Facebook profile contains several pro-Trump posts and he follows several pro-Trump pages. When Wohl contacted him about being part of a Trump “task force,” Kelly said he thought it was the moment of a lifetime.
“He told me he could tell I was a motivated person and someone who could play a big role in President Donald Trump’s potential 2020 victory. Wohl asked me if I could do whatever it took to get the job done. To me, this just meant working hard and long to get facts gathered and not fallacies,” Kelly said.
Wohl, along with lobbyist and radio host Jack Burkman, had another vision of doing “whatever it took to get the job done.”
Kelly said the duo flew him to Baltimore, Maryland, where they traveled to Burkman’s Virginia home and began discussing political viewpoints. After this, Wohl showed Kelly an article on his computer that he had written pretending to be Kelly accusing gay Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg of raping him.
This isn’t the first time Burkman has went after a prominent gay celebrity. When gay former football player Michael Sam was signed by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys in 2014, Burkman drew national attention for organizing a protest and pushed for rules barring gay players from the league.
This isn’t the first time Wohl and Burkman have been accused of recruiting people to make false allegations against political figures, either.
In 2018, the two were accused of attempting to recruit a woman to make sexual assault and harassment allegations against Robert Mueller, who led the investigation of possible collusion between Trump and Russia in the 2016 election.
Upon hearing Burkman and Wohl’s plan to falsely accuse Buttigieg, Kelly said he was unsure about the idea.
“I told him I was not sure how I felt. Wohl and Burkman said everything would be fine and I should get some rest since it is now near 4 a.m. Once I was in bed, about 4:30 a.m., I told Jacob Wohl via the Signal application that I was incredibly uncomfortable and not on board with their plan,” Kelly said.
Kelly said when he woke to discuss the plan with Wohl, the article, using his name and image but a false story, had already been posted.
“Wohl continues to say he posted the article, the same one I had asked to discuss when I woke up because I was not on board, and I see the time stamp was from April 28 on the article, and this morning in question was April 29, which is also the day I landed in the Washington D.C. area,” Kelly said.
In addition to posting the article, Wohl, who was banned from Twitter in February for creating and operating fake accounts, created a fake – and since removed – Twitter account under the name @realHunterKelly along with a fake Gmail account using Kelly’s name.
Kelly said the duo then tried to get him to sign a “down-right bologna script,” as he expressed his regretful thoughts and told them he didn’t want to be involved.
“For well over an hour, I was in contact with my parents while discussing with Wohl and Burkman, who promised me as much as purchasing ‘any house I wanted.’ He kept telling me my family would ‘get over it’ and I needed to sign the script that I was supposed to say in a press conference.
“After probably 45 minutes of me being stubborn and not wanting to do anything except leave, which ‘was not an option,’ I reluctantly signed a script that I was told had no legal standing and that I was told was just going to be ‘filed’ in the tasks file,” Kelly said.
Kelly said that the media was constantly contacting him and those close to him after the post went up. During this time, he stayed in contact with his parents, who expressed anger over the situation, and later picked him up after he packed his bags and rushed out the door.
“Wohl and Burkman said that it would ‘be over once more people came forward after I spoke my truth.’ However, my truth is that I was never raped by Peter Buttigieg, nor was I in Washington D.C. in February 2019. My first time in Washington D.C. was not until March 2019. I had never been to the Mayflower Hotel, nor did I ever wake up with Peter Buttigieg forcefully pulling down my pants like I was almost coerced into saying,” Kelly said.
Kelly said after he left, Wohl made posts from the fake Twitter account to make it appear as if he was distraught.
“I pride myself on honesty and transparency. Had I known I was getting roped up into a Jussie Smollett-esque situation, I would have rejected their offer and stayed in Michigan. I thought this was going to be a couple days of talking facts and seeing what legitimate we could get on Peter Buttigieg. Nothing that they alleged is true about Buttigieg,” Kelly said.
The original post has since been removed, and despite Kelly coming forward to publically denounce the accusations being made in his name, Burkman and Wohl still claim the story is a true account of an actual event.
“While we’re disappointed by his reaction today, I can’t imagine the stress he’s currently under,” Burkman said about Kelly. “This is a difficult subject for anyone to face and unfortunately, as an attorney, there’s only so much I can do.”
Wohl has also come forth to dispute Kelly’s statements. According to Wohl, Kelly is in fact the author of the article and that Kelly reached out to them first and was “very passionate about his claims.”
Despite Wohl and Burkman’s claims that Kelly approached them first and that the sexual assault allegations are true, Kelly has maintained that the assault never happened. He has also gone on the offensive, attacking Wohl and Burkman for trying to use him in their lie.
“I was never in Washington D.C. in February 2019, I have never met or spoken with Buttigieg, I have never been a victim of sexual assault, but more importantly I am not a liar. I will not stand around idly and get dragged through the mud for two people to continue committing heinous acts in the name of ‘protecting our country.’ They are the real danger to our country,” Kelly said.
According to The Daily Beast, another Republican man has also come forward, though anonymously, claiming that Wohl and Burkman contacted him under aliases pitching a similar plot. The anonymous man recorded the conversation with the duo, and according to an audio forensics expert, “it is highly likely that one of the voice on the recording is Jacob Wohl’s voice.”
Buttigieg, who is on his campaign trail, has since responded to the allegations that are now only being made by Burkman and Wohl.
“I’m sure it’s not the first time somebody is going to make something up about me. It’s not going to throw us,” Buttigieg said. “Politics can be ugly sometimes, but you have to face that when you’re in presidential politics.”
Closing his written statement, Kelly apologized to victims of sexual assault and again took a shot at Burkman and Wohl.
“I am, from the bottom of my heart, truly sorry for everyone involved in the very serious #MeToo movement. I will continue to use my voice and honesty to make a difference. 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,” Kelly said.