Trump-obsessed serial hoaxer Jacob Wohl has found a way to use the COVID-19 pandemic to squeeze a little more juice out of his 15 minutes of infamy. According to reports, his latest (failed) scheme was an attempt to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, a public health expert who has, at times, expressed some disagreement with how the president is handling the coronavirus response.
Reason reports that a woman has come forward saying that Wohl and his frequent collaborator Jack Burkman paid her to make a false claim of sexual assault against Fauci. She alleges the pair had previously convinced her to make false claims against an unnamed celebrity. Wohl and Burkman have been publicly linked to attempts at false allegations of misconduct against Robert Mueller, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, among their other plots.
If you don’t recall hearing about sexual misconduct allegations against Fauci–something which would have, in theory, been a pretty shocking story–it’s because no legitimate journalist found the claims credible enough to report. The only outlet to cover the allegations at all was Daily Dot, which ran with the headline “Someone Is Spreading a Sketchy Sexual Assault Claim Against Dr. Fauci” (the URL itself uses the blunter phrase: “smear campaign”).
Wohl’s machinations typically appear motivated by a desire to “take down” any critics of President Trump; for Burkman, the campaign against Fauci might have taken on more Rapture-theology overtones. In what the woman states is a tape recording of a phone call with Burkman, he tells her that Fauci “shut the country down” and is getting in the way of some type of righteous purge.
“So what if you lose 400,000 people? 200,000 were elderly. The other 200,000 are the bottom of society,” the voice identified as Burkman says. “You got to clean out the barn. If it’s real, it’s a positive thing, for God’s sake.”
In the woman’s telling, this phone conversation took place after a man Wohl describes on the call as “a real lawyer” delivered “five figures” in cash to her Los Angeles home. On the call, Reason reports that she is heard saying she would like to give the money back via a wire transfer. The men reject that suggestion, saying, “We don’t want any records of this nonsense.”
The woman says that she has known Wohl since 2018, and for some portion of the time they were romantically involved. In her conversation with Reason, the young woman says that, in the course of their personal relationship, she shared with Wohl an account of being sexually assaulted by an older man when she was just out of high school and the pain and shame she felt in the aftermath of that incident.
She alleges that, when Wohl first approached her to make a false claim of assault against a public figure, he told her to “use the same stuff” she had told him about her lived assault and claimed that making a public accusation of misconduct would be “good practice” should she ever wish to confront her own real-life abuser.
“As feeble as they are at pulling off these cons, Wohl and Burkman appear to appreciate what a powerful motivator shame can be and how it has been used traditionally to keep women quiet,” Nancy Rommelmann wrote in Reason. “They have refashioned #BelieveAllWomen into a tool for their own purposes.”
When asked about their involvement in the plot, Wohl declined to comment fully, and Burkman told Reason that he and his partner “stand by” the accusations against Fauci. On the tape, the woman says she wants out and has come to think of Wohl as an “evil person.” In response to her concerns, the male voices tell her that she readily volunteered to partake in the scheme.
In late February, Wohl was released on his own recognizance after an arraignment in Riverside County Superior Court on felony counts of securities fraud. A settlement hearing for Wohl and his codefendant, Matthew Johnson, was scheduled for April 21 but was postposed due to pandemic orders.