The 2020 election cycle is shaping up to be a treacherous one, as a smear campaign against presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay presidential candidate, demonstrates the lengths to which some Trump supporters will go.
Pro-Trump incendiaries Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman identified Buttigieg as the biggest threat to Trump’s 2020 campaign, and allegedly launched a smear campaign framing the candidate as a rapist, according to the Associated Press.
Michigan college student Hunter Kelly said in a statement that the rape allegations against Buttigieg, which were published on Medium under his name, were entirely false.
Kelly also said that Wohl and Burkman coerced him into co-signing the false claims against Buttigieg, despite his own discomfort with the plot.
The plot did more to stain the reputation of the right in the eyes of the American public than it did further the Republican Party’s prospect of success. Additionally, this is not the first time Wohl and Burkman attempted to organize a plot like this. Last year, they attempted to frame Robert Mueller for sexual assault, but their would-be accuser, like Kelly, backed out of their plan.
In addition to this plot contributing to an environment of distrust, it also symbolizes a backlash against the phenomenon of politicians embracing their identities.
Since 2009, it has become more and more common for politicians to wear their identity on their sleeve with pride, despite the potential backlash or criticism.
However, given the contentious political climate our country entered during the 2016 presidential election, hate seems to rear its ugly head with cruelty more often.
Not only did these false claims promote misinformation about Buttigieg, but they also have trivialized the seriousness of rape, particularly against men.
One in six men experience sexual assault, and their assaults are often not taken seriously. Rape is not a card to play in order to get the upper hand in politics. It is a painful violation of someone’s sexual autonomy.
It is particularly heinous to level accusations against Buttigieg, considering his identity as an openly gay man. Gay men were historically stereotyped as sexual predators or rapists, and these false accusations reinforce these homophobic attitudes.
From watching his interviews with the media, Buttigieg seems to seek unity between people beyond singular identities. Meanwhile, it is clear that the right wing, particularly people like Wohl and Burkman, seek to hinder division between communities.