I don’t think I met Nancy Pelosi’s drug dealer on Tuesday when I was hanging out with Jacob Wohl. But I’m not entirely sure.
Let me explain.
The whole affair started where all great affairs start: in a sushi restaurant in Tribeca with Kathy Griffin. Kathy and I were talking, as we often do, about the weirdness that is MAGA World. I told her that I had gotten a direct message on Instagram from Jacob Wohl. We laughed and talked about the plucky, aspiring grifter. I told her I might go to one of his events. Later, I messaged young Jacob to tell him that I might like to come to his next press conference. I mentioned that I’d been talking about him with Kathy Griffin.
A few days later I received a press release proclaiming that Kathy Griffin would be appearing at an event with Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman and—because why not?—Milo Yiannopoulos.
No, you’re not missing anything.
In the interests of posterity, it’s worth quoting Kathy’s response in full:
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) October 18, 2019
But if anything, having witnessed one of Jacob’s lies manifest first-hand, I was even more eager to see him work his wonders in carne.
For the last year, the serial grifter and fabulist Jacob Wohl and his not-at-all strangely older middle-aged partner Jack Burkman have held a series of “press conferences” in the driveway of Burkman’s semi-detached home in suburban Virginia.
Jacob and Jack have held them on a number of topics—everything from fake sex allegations against Robert Mueller (in fairness, this one was held at a local hotel, not actually at Burkman’s house), to fake sex allegations against Kamala Harris to fake sex allegations against Elizabeth Warren to fake sex allegations against Pete Buttigieg. All of these fake sex allegations were—how to put this delicately?—improbable.
For instance, Jacob and Jack claimed that the aged, straight-laced Robert Mueller is a sexual predator and that Elizabeth Warren is an insatiable “cougar” who leaves “sex scars” on the backs of her young studs.
In other words, the Jacob and Jack events are playing to the type of people who think that Bill Mitchell and Q are tools of the Deep State.
If this sounds dismissive, it’s not meant as such. Not long ago I called Jacob Wohl the Eric Trump of grifters. But a lot has changed since then. His October event, for instance, branched out from fake sex allegations and promised to produce Nancy Pelosi’s drug dealer.
It’s fair to say that I now consider him very nearly the Donald Trump Jr. of grifters.
I called these events “press conferences,” but that’s probably not quite right. Maybe it’s better to think of them as the realest reality shows ever. Or maybe performance art. They involve Jacob and Jack standing in front of the Burkman demi-manse, usually with a large TV screen placed on a wooden table, and an attractive young man who seems to not be totally sure what he’s doing there. Also, there’s usually not a lot of “press.”
For this week’s event, Burkman had tweeted that the Proud Boys—America’s best-dressed Nazis—would be in attendance. It wasn’t clear why they would be there. But then, it wasn’t clear that they’d really be there at all. Maybe Gavin McInnes had been sitting in a sushi joint in Tribeca with Joe Rogan and Joe DM’d Jacob and then this morphed into “the Proud Boys are coming!”
I mean, that’s as plausible a scenario as anything else. There’s not a lot of logic to these things. And in the end, no Proud Boys showed up at Burkman’s townhouse. But almost 15 other people did!
Most of them were college students who came to protest. There was a guy handing out corncob hats and playing the banjo. There was a tall dude in a bright green shirt with an airhorn. Across the street was a documentary film crew who wouldn’t tell me anything about themselves. They were probably just following some sort of Prime Directive where they didn’t want to tarnish the art by becoming part of it. Who can say.
After a few minutes, Jacob and Jack and Milo came out. And while we had been promised revelations about Nancy Pelosi’s drug dealer, the omnipresent TV screen now had a graphic asking, “Ted Cruz, swinger?”
But it turned out to be a double feature. Burkman claimed to have lock-solid proof that Nancy Pelosi takes at least “eight Percocet a day” AND Wohl pivoted to a story about how Ted Cruz is sexually estranged from his wife and is a frequent participant in swingers parties.
Wohl then produced a young woman in sunglasses who claimed to have been recruited by Cruz for swinging.
Yes, that Ted Cruz.
While the drama played out, Milo remained seated, draped in an enormous black (fake?) fur coat and alternated between smoking and fiddling with his phone.
The crowd peppered Burkman with questions and this part of the performance was, in its way, amazing. For instance, this was a real exchange:
Question: “Why is Milo Yiannopoulos here?”
Burkman: “No comment.”
Whatever this was—press conference, reality show, avant-garde installation—the truth is it exceeded even my own expectations for batshittery. It was delightful.
But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable it made me.
Sure, most people will laugh at bullshit claims like the idea that Elizabeth Warren makes sweet love to a green dildo she bought from Amazon. But not everyone does.
And this second group of people vote, too.
You may think that Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman are just jokes, the ne plus ultra of Infowars and the Federalist and Gateway Pundit. But Trump got to be president by playing to “alternative media outlets” like Infowars and the Federalist and Gateway Pundit.
Scandals matter—even fake scandals—because ultimately everything matters. Because, like all authoritarian movements, Trumpism is about grinding away even the idea of truth.
And in their own small way, Jacob and Jack are doing exactly that.