Please stop

The far-right political campaigner Jacob Wohl is a liar. He has lied about pipe bombs. About Robert Mueller, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, all of whom he falsely accused of sexual misconduct. (The details are not worth going in to, but are here for anyone curious.) 

At a recent press conference in May, about his allegations against Buttigieg, Wohl and his partner in misinformation Jack Burkman took questions. The most perspicacious came from The Daily Beast’s reporter, Will Sommer. “How can anyone take you seriously at this point, and second of all, you’re clearly lying, right?” Sommer asked. “So, what’s the deal?”

The deal has become clearer in the intervening weeks: Wohl likes attention, and we have continued to give it to him. The shock of the Mueller accusation was enough to be newsworthy, especially since the stakes appeared high. And the allegations against Buttigieg and Warren were, at least, entertainingly bungled. But Wohl and Burkman now appear aware that they have accidentally become entertainers, and the bungling appears to have become an exercise in personal branding. 

If Wohl falls afoul of the law, it probably won’t be for maliciously accusing public figures of sex crimes but for setting up an unlicensed real estate business in Arizona that allegedly bilked one man, now dead, out of $75,000, per Sommer’s reporting.

The reporters who helped Wohl and Burkman apply clown makeup deserve the thanks of a grateful nation, but, at the risk of being the guy who hits reply all to ask everybody to stop replying to the email, it is probably time to move on to harder targets.

The temptation to continue to cover the pair’s debasement on their own absurd terms will be strong, but we ought to resist it. The media has often been accused of symbiosis with the flamboyant, intentionally clickable leaders of the far right; it’s time to break that cycle. 

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Last week, the pair summoned reporters to the Burkman family driveway yet again to accuse Ted Cruz of being a swinger; with them was far-right misogynist Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been complaining bitterly that he has been silenced, when what he means is that nobody wants to pay him any longer — with money or attention — for torrents of desperate trolling abuse targeted at women, Muslims and others. 

Let’s do the same for Wohl and Burkman. 

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Sam Thielman is the former Tow editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, and a reporter and critic based in New York. He is the creator, with film critic Alissa Wilkinson, of Young Adult Movie Ministry, a podcast about Christianity and movies, and his writing has been featured in The Guardian, Talking Points Memo, and Variety, among others.