Inept conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman held another bizarre press conference in Burkman’s driveway on Wednesday, this time to smear Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) with obviously fake allegations of an extramarital affair.
The pair’s bogus accuser—26-year-old Sean Newaldass—told The Daily Beast on Friday that he had no idea the event in which he alleged that he was in a romantic dalliance with the Senate was real. That’s because Newaldass had met Wohl and Burkman by replying to an ad posted on Craigslist seeking a “male actor” for “performance art.” When he showed up at Burkman’s Virginia home and delivered his lines alleging an affair, Newaldass was under the belief that the press conference was actually an audition for a Spike TV show. He said he had no idea that Harris was a politician. Indeed, he assumed she was a fictional person.
“I thought I was acting for a role in a movie, like a role in a TV series,” Newaldass said. “I thought everything was staged, I’m thinking everyone is an actor.”
Newaldass insists that he believed that everyone at the event, from Wohl and Burkman, to the reporters asking questions, and a heckler dressed as a corncob, were all actors. Wohl promised Newaldass $500 to appear at the event—money that Newaldass said he still has yet to receive.
“I’m thinking this is going to be like The Office,” Newaldass said. “The Office has super dry humor.”
Newaldass’s allegations are shocking even by Wohl and Burkman’s standards. The duo are known for hamfisted attempts to manufacture smears against political figures and for roping unwitting participants into their schemes. But they have never concocted a fake TV show in order to execute their plans before.
As Newaldass realized Wednesday afternoon that the event was real, and that he was being treated as an outright liar on social media, he said he became afraid to leave his home.
“To me, it was the most hurt I’ve ever received from anything in the world,” Newaldass said.
Asked over Instagram direct message whether he had tricked Newaldass, Wohl responded with only a laughing-crying emoji. Burkman, a lawyer and lobbyist whose membership in the D.C. Bar was recently suspended over unpaid dues, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time one of Wohl and Burkman’s fake accusers has turned on them. Their Mueller accuser, Carolyne Cass, failed to show up at a much-hyped press conference and later said Wohl and Burkman had made up the claims. College student Hunter Kelly, whose name Burkman and Wohl used to accuse Buttigieg of sexual assault, turned on the pair even faster than Cass, sending out mocking tweets about their press conference announcing his claims as it happened. Their missteps don’t end there. Wohl is set to be arraigned on a felony charge for unlawful sale of securities later this month in California.
Newaldass said he first entered Wohl’s orbit by replying to the Craigslist ad, which makes no mention of politics, Burkman and Wohl, or Harris. Shortly after responding, according to Newaldass, he was contacted by Burkman and Wohl. The phone number that Newaldass said Wohl used to contact him is the same as a number Wohl has used in the past to text and make phones call to a reporter at The Daily Beast.
On Tuesday night, Wohl and Burkman got Newaldass an Uber to Burkman’s home in Rosslyn, Virginia. Newaldass said he was told the house belonged to Spike TV, a network that no longer exists after parent company Viacom changed the channel’s name to the Paramount Network in 2018.
“I was told, ‘This is the audition for a TV show that’s going to be on Spike,’” Newaldass said. “And I can be a personal trainer on the show, right?”
Newaldass said Burkman and Wohl showed him the statement he would read on Wednesday , but described it as a “script.” Newaldass found the claims in the statement bizarre, but considered that he had seen similarly strange things in other movies and TV shows.
“It’s hard for me to hold my laughs back because I’m like, ‘This is funny,’” Newaldass said. “What kind of comedy is this?”
Burkman and Wohl later emailed him the “script,” according to Newaldass, but not without their signature ineptness. Newaldass initially received a statement from the pair making a series of different sexual allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden—apparently because Wohl or Burkman mixed up their smears and attached the wrong file to the email. After he asked Wohl for clarification, they sent the Harris statement instead. Newaldass began to practice what he thought would be his lines.
Newaldass arrived at Burkman’s house around noon Wednesday, a few hours before the press conference. He said two other people—a singer and a purported minister who would perform a blessing at the press conference—were just as nervous as he was, preparing their lines as though they were getting ready for a performance. It wasn’t clear to Newaldass whether the other two people were also actors or similarly oblivious to what was actually happening, but the “minister” later told The Daily Dot that he was not actually a reverend and appeared “confused” about the event.
As hecklers and a handful of reporters gathered on Burkman’s sidewalk, inside, Burkman and Wohl encouraged Newaldass by talking up his future Hollywood career. Newaldass said Wohl claimed to be a “director,” and both men encouraged him to sign the statement making allegations against Harris—a signature they would later use as proof that he really believed the claims.
“They’re encouraging me like, ‘Man, you’re going to be a star, you’re a lead actor,’” Wohl said.
Newaldass’s press conference devolved into farce almost as soon as it began, with a mystery man delivering an apparently fake cease-and-desist notice that Burkman claimed was from Harris’ campaign and Wohl threatening to spray hecklers with a garden hose. Newaldass read the statement to the crowd, convinced, he said, that Harris was a fictional character.
“I’m completely oblivious to who this person is,” Newaldass told The Daily Beast.
While Newaldass was able to read from his statement, he became confused when asked to answer questions from the crowd, since he thought he needed to read lines. In an interview later with a Daily Dot reporter, Burkman and Wohl repeatedly cut in whenever the reporter asked Newaldass a question.
Newaldass said he left the event with promises from Burkman and Wohl for future opportunities in Hollywood, and even the prospect of an entire TV series and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Newaldass began to think about how a role on a hit TV show would enable him to provide for his family financially.
“So that’s what really sucked me in, thinking, ‘Man, I can take care of everybody,’” Newaldass said.
When he got home afterwards, though, Newaldass said he slowly began to realize he had been tricked. His Instagram page filled up with accusations that he was a liar. Newaldass began to doubt Wohl and Burkman’s claim that they were just filming a show for Spike TV, and he became afraid to go outside.
“I was scared out of my mind,” Newaldass said.
Newaldass felt that he had embarrassed his family, and worried about what his family and friends would think of him.
“The people that actually pay attention to this stuff are really judging me,” Newaldass said.
Newaldass insists that he had never heard of Harris before the press conference. And on that front, he isn’t alone—12 percent of respondents in a Morning Consult poll this month said they had never heard of the senator. After researching Harris, Newaldass said he’s now likely to vote for her presidential bid.
Newaldass said the ruse especially stings because, like Harris, Newaldass is of mixed Indian and Caribbean ancestry.
“That’s what’s hurtful, because I’m hurting my own ethnicity,” Newaldass said.