There’s a few fundamental problems with the idea of ‘believe all women,’ or more broadly, ‘believe all victims.’ The first is that our entire justice system is built upon the opposite idea, that people are in fact innocent until proven otherwise. The second is that as our definition of sexual assault keeps changing by the minute, it’s possible for two people to experience the same encounter in radically different ways, with one person believing they just had entirely consensual sex, and the other believing they were assaulted. The third, and most important: there are bad people in this world. And bad people lie.
One of those people is Jacob Wohl, a conspiracy theorist crackpot who has already been behind several schemes intent on maligning public figures due to ‘scandals’ he has in fact invented. His latest target appears to be the mayor of South Bend Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete, as his fans tend to call him, has emerged as something of a dark horse in the Democratic primary — what he lacks in executive experience, he makes up for in charm and a persona that seems to radiate genuineness. It’s far too early to tell if that will be anywhere near enough to help him secure the Democratic nomination, but it was allegedly enough to make Wohl and lobbyist Jack Burkman believe it was time to derail Buttigieg’s campaign.
The story is still developing, and the details are muddled, ugly, and far from clear. What is clear is that on Monday, a vague and ambiguous post accusing Buttigieg of sexual assault was posted on Medium under the name Hunter Kelly. The piece, now deleted, alleges that posting the accusation is ‘by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do.’ Kelly, or likely Wohl and Burkman impersonating Kelly, wrote: ‘I was sexually assaulted by Mayor Pete Buttigieg. I didn’t know who he was back in February, only that he told me he was an important politician.’ The writer continues to say that he is a gay man and that he is coming forward ‘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.’
A short while later, Hunter Kelly posted to Facebook that he was not sexually assaulted and ‘would never falsely accuse anyone.’ Kelly claims that he was ‘approached by a political figure to come to DC to discuss political situations from the standpoint of a gay Republican,’ and that when he arrived, ‘they discussed Peter Buttigieg and started talking about how they would be working a campaign against him.’ Per Kelly, ‘I went to bed and woke up to a fake Twitter @realhunterkelly and an article that I in no way endorsed or wrote.’
Whether Kelly acquiesced or had his identity stolen by Wohl and Burkman after their initial meeting is ancillary to the broader issues illustrated by this story: bad people lie. A system which opens itself up to those lies is a weak and poorly designed system.
Thanks to good reporting from the Daily Beast, and Wohl’s generally predilection for incompetence, this lie was quickly sniffed out, but things could have easily taken a much darker and more disturbing turn. Wohl happens to be both a bad person and an incredibly bad schemer, but being immoral and being talented are not usually mutually exclusive. Now that accusations of assault have been weaponized, it’s only a matter of time before every candidate is targeted by a scheme just like this one, only less idiotically carried out.
As Democrats gear up for an intense primary season, the leadership would do well to consider whether they’ve unleashed a beast they can’t control.
Daniella Greenbaum Davis is a Spectator columnist and a senior contributor to the Federalist.