COSTA MESA, Calif. – A false claim bubbled up from the internet last month that Sen. Kamala Harris, the recently announced presidential candidate, wasn’t eligible for election because she had immigrant parents and spent part of her childhood in Canada. The claim, an echo of the “birther” conspiracy that trailed President Barack Obama, was widely debunked but still addressed seriously by mainstream news pundits, including CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
Even better for Jacob Wohl, the 21-year-old Californian who ignited the Harris birther claim with a tweet, some people actually seemed to accept it as fact.
“The believability stuck at about 15 to 18 percent by my measurement,” Wohl said in an interview shortly afterward, declaring it “not a bad campaign.”
Wohl, a self-professed “political and corporate intel consultant” and supporter of President Donald Trump, is dedicated to plying the malleable fringe of the electorate with dubious claims and disinformation schemes.
Amplifying him in that quest are his links to the world’s loudest Twitter cheerleader, Trump. Wohl’s father, attorney David Wohl, says that as a Trump surrogate he was on calls with the 2016 presidential candidate daily. David Wohl has regularly appeared on cable news networks to promote the president and his policies.
Trump has retweeted Jacob Wohl’s praise – of the president’s economy, or just general “WINNING”-ness that the “left-wing media can’t stand” – at least three times. They appear to have met at least once, as evidenced by a photo of father, son and president together, and the younger Wohl says he has spoken to the president “several” times. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on their relationship.
On Twitter, where he has 186,000 followers and is adept at quickly responding to Trump’s tweets to gain many more eyeballs, Wohl has claimed, without evidence, that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is secretly dead or in a vegetative state and that pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and media outlets were a left-wing “false flag” operation.
He flew to Minnesota last week to “investigate” the rumor that Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar married her brother, a mission for which he tried to fund-raise $25,000 from his online followers. Wohl’s trip to the heartland devolved into bizarre tweets in which he suggested that Minneapolis was so overrun by Somali jihadists that he had to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a team of “security professionals.”
Wohl’s most prominent gambit was also his most disastrous: an apparent sloppy attempt to accuse Trump’s nemesis special counsel Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct days before the midterm elections in November. His actions were referred to the FBI for potential criminal investigation. The woman he named as a credible accuser of the special prosecutor, Carolyne Cass, recently told USA TODAY that Wohl “made it up,” deceived her with a false identity and tried to coerce her to appear at a news conference against her will.
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