On May 7, a woman who had previously accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of sexual assault admitted that the incident had not happened. Instead, she explained to the same journalists to whom she had originally reported the assault that she had been put up to the fraudulent claim by Jacob Wohl.
For political insiders and those who spend much time on Twitter, Wohl is particularly well known. Though he was banned from Twitter in 2019, Wohl, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, is infamous for falsely accusing public figures of sexual assault, defrauding investors in his hedge fund, and originating the “Hipster Coffee Shop” meme.
Wohl has been called a “Trumpian internet troll” and “prominent grifter.” His latest attempt to smear a prominent figure is just one more failed grift in a career built on them.
Who is Jacob Wohl?
In August 2017, Bloomberg called Wohl, then 19, “Trump’s latest market whisperer.” The Trump loyalist had seemingly come out of nowhere to become one of Trump’s most recognizable supporters, with multiple retweets by the president and enough clout to earn a profile in one of the world’s leading financial publications.
Wohl is the son of David Wohl, a defense attorney who served as a campaign surrogate for Trump in 2016. Like his son, before he got banned from the platform in February 2019, David is an avid user of Twitter who regularly replies approvingly under Trump’s tweets and is occasionally retweeted by the president. Both father and son live in Southern California.
Before he was best known as a pro-Trump troll, Wohl was accused of defrauding investors through a series of hedge funds, the first of which, Wohl Capital, he started at 17. In 2016, his deceptive actions earned him a lifetime ban from the National Futures Association (NFA), who regulate derivatives trading in the United States.
Wohl began “The Washington Reporter,” a now defunct blog that claimed to be functioning as “independent journalism” albeit with a far-right bias. An investigation by Splinter determined that the site’s “code of ethics” was plagiarized from another investigative news site, ProPublica.
In late 2019, Wohl and his former business partner, Matthew Johnson, were charged with a felony related to the same trading malfeasance that had previously resulted in Wohl’s being banned from the NFA. Wohl was arraigned on February 24, but a trial date has not been set.
His latest financial endeavor is selling the Jacob Wohl Summer Physique Accelerator fitness program on his own website for US$200. He claims his program is not for vegans or vegetarians because “it is not designed to work around your eating disorder.”
False sexual assault allegations
In the midst of the current #MeToo moment and the raft of sexual assault allegations against politicians, Wohl has repeatedly attempted and failed to smear public figures with false allegations. He has done this with the help of Jack Burkman, a conservative lobbyist.
Public figures that have been the focus of the Wohl/Burkman smear campaigns include Senator Elizabeth Warren, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Ted Cruz. The four are seen as being or having been in opposition to Trump in some capacity.
The allegations all involved sexual assault or another form of sexual indiscretion, including claiming Cruz, a Republican, was a swinger. All the allegations were later proved to be false.
The latest failed smear attempt was against Dr. Fauci, one of the lead medical experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. With his willingness to contradict Trump and provide a more dire assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic than the president, Fauci has become a target of right wing vitriol.
On April 21, The Daily Dot reported on a sexual assault allegation against Fauci, calling it “sketchy” and stating “things didn’t add up” when they investigated the claims. A few weeks later, the woman behind the claims, Diana Andrade, reached out to reporters who had heard the original claims.
Andrade (who had reported the claims under the name Diana Rodriguez) admitted she lied. “The reality is that I’ve known Jacob since 2018,” she wrote to a reporter for Reason, “and that he charmed me into taking money to do this.”
Wohl’s history of false claims doesn’t end with sexual assault. He made the erroneous claim that a string of pipe bombs sent to Democrats in late 2018 was a “false flag.” The builder of the bombs, Cesar Sayoc, an avowed supporter of Trump, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for acts of domestic terrorism.
In early 2019, Wohl created fake Twitter accounts that he used to send himself death threats, which he submitted to the police. Wohl was later banned from the social media site for creating fake accounts.
“I just left a hipster coffee shop”
On July 16, 2018, Wohl tweeted, “I just a left a hipster coffee shop. [sic] It was packed with liberals, whispering amongst each other about what a commendable job President Trump did with Vladimir Putin this morning in Helsinki — America is PROUD!”
The tweet was referencing the US-Russia summit that had occurred that day. Much of the media reporting on the event noted that Trump had sided with the Russian president over his own intelligence community in relation to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election to help Trump defeat his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It was not the first or last time Wohl would claim to hear “liberals” at a “hipster coffee shop” praising Trump, usually in whispered tones. Wohl frequently pushed the idea that liberals were secretly pleased with Trump’s leadership and were only criticizing the president because it was a popular thing to do.
His assertions were swiftly met with mockery and became a meme using the first sentence of his July 16 tweet to set up similarly improbable situations.
According to the meme aggregating website, knowyourmeme.com, the “I just left a hipster coffee shop” meme is an example of a phrasal template. It can be used to set up an ironic twist on the original tweet or a different location can be substituted in for “hipster coffee shop” to parody the underlying structure.
The meme has often been used to mock Wohl directly, such as in journalist Josh Butler’s July 18 tweet, which featured a screencap of multiple examples of Wohl’s “hipster coffee shop” references. “I just left a hipster coffee shop in LA, the liberals were whispering about tired tweet formats and how easy it is to trick people on the internet.”