Disgraced Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver went on medical leave due to a cardiac episode soon after the organization became aware of a New Y
Disgraced Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver went on medical leave due to a cardiac episode soon after the organization became aware of a New York Post story looking into his inappropriate online behavior.
Weaver, a longtime political strategist and veteran of multiple presidential campaigns, sexually harassed dozens of young men online over the years, leading to his ouster from the well-known anti-Trump group last month.
One man who sought a job with the Lincoln Project last summer tells Fox News he and Weaver traded sexually explicit messages. The man said he went along with Weaver’s overtures out of desperation for a job. The man said he stopped receiving messages from Weaver on July 4, leading the man to contact Lincoln Project co-founder Mike Madrid regarding Weaver’s apparent promise of employment.
At the same time, conservative author and journalist Ryan Girdusky and New York Post reporter Jon Levine were beginning to dig into questions about Weaver’s behavior and contacted the man. After Weaver followed Girdusky on Twitter in May, he was contacted by numerous men who raised the alarm about Weaver’s habit of prowling the Twitter direct messages, often called DMs, of young gay men.
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According to these men, Weaver would often make inappropriate comments or dangle job opportunities in exchange for sexual favors. Another man who was harassed by Weaver tells Fox News that Weaver also said he could use his large social media following to help raise his profile.
On Aug. 4, the man contacted by the New York Post informed Madrid that the news outlet was working on a story about Weaver. The man acknowledged he did not tell Madrid that Weaver had sent him sexually explicit messages, telling Fox News he was embarrassed. He produced a Twitter direct message as proof he contacted Madrid. The man also told Fox News he felt he had been strung along by Madrid and the organization and had not received a job offer.
Two days later, the Lincoln Project announced Weaver had been hospitalized, although Fox News could not discover where or for how long. He never returned to the organization.
Requests for comment made to Weaver, Madrid, and several members of the Lincoln Project went unreturned. Weaver and the Lincoln Project severed ties last month, and Madrid left in December.
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There is no indication Weaver’s health episode was related to the inquiries into his behavior. The Washington Blade reported Tuesday that a source close to Weaver said the medical leave was not a ruse. However, its timing might have led to a delay in a public accounting of his conduct.
Girdusky told Fox News the story he was working on with Levine fizzled in the three weeks after Weaver went on medical leave, as Weaver went off the grid and several sources backed out of cooperating. At the time, the 2020 presidential campaign was in full swing, and the Lincoln Project received widespread and often laudatory media coverage for its vitriolic anti-Trump ads and enthusiastic boosting of Joe Biden.
“Weaver had a health incident out of nowhere, and it delayed the publication of the story … We had three young men going on record, they all dropped out. They were too afraid of the ramifications,” Girdusky said.
Another reporter, who was working for Mediaite at the time, tells Fox News he was also working on a story about Weaver that went nowhere as sources decided not to go on the record.
Girdusky has claimed Daily Beast editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast, who co-hosts a podcast with Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson, knew about the Post’s snooping and made calls to pressure against its publication. She denied it during a podcast episode last week.
“I don’t know John Weaver. I’ve never met him,” she said. “Anyone who knows me knows the New York Post doesn’t care what I think about anything, but also the allegations that I knew something that wasn’t public knowledge [isn’t] true … I didn’t know anything.”
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Last month, after the Lincoln Project announced it would make a database of Trump administration alumni with the goal of make it more difficult for them to find post-White House employment, Girdusky, fed up with what he viewed as hypocritical behavior, tweeted: “Maybe I should start talking about one of the founding members of the Lincoln Project offering jobs to young men in exchange for sex … his wife is probably interested.”
The tweet went viral and led to a flood of men sharing their own stories of Weaver’s inappropriate messages toward them. Girdusky, who now had on-the-record sources confirming Weaver’s behavior, published a story in The American Conservative on Jan. 11.
Weaver released a statement to Axios on Jan. 15 in which he came out as gay and apologized for inappropriate behavior. He added he would step away from The Lincoln Project, and the group said Weaver’s statement spoke for itself, despite unanswered questions about its knowledge of Weaver’s conduct.
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On Jan. 31, The New York Times reported that one of Weaver’s harassment victims was a 14-year-old boy, whom he continued to contact for at least four years afterward. The Lincoln Project forcefully denounced Weaver as a liar and predator, and co-founder Rick Wilson said this week he was disgusted by his former colleague’s behavior.
He added he would have reported Weaver to police if he knew about the 14-year-old, saying that while the other reported behavior attributed to Weaver was “sh—y and weird and not cool,” the conduct with a minor crossed a new line.
Wilson, who addressed Weaver’s predatory behavior last week on both his Daily Beast podcast and an episode of the Lincoln Project’s YouTube show “The Breakdown,” admitted the organization was aware last summer that the New York Post was looking into Weaver.
“In July of last year, there were rumors that the New York Post was going to report out a story about John being up in guys’ DMs,” Wilson said on the podcast. “And we heard about it because the Trump campaign was bragging about it, bragging that it was coming.”
“Around that time John informed us he’d had a serious cardiac issue, a serious heart attack, while the story from the New York Post was one of 5,000 stories that come at us every day,” Wilson added. “[So we asked] ‘What can we do, how can we help your family?’ So John went on medical leave, and he was on medical leave right up until this story from a lot of these far-right guys started circulating in the last couple weeks.”
Levine did not respond to requests for comment.
Fellow Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt also told the New York Times it had heard “chatter” about Weaver’s closeted conduct but nothing to indicate he acted inappropriately.
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Wilson said they asked Weaver, who has a wife and two children, if the rumors about his behavior were true since it could “give a vector for attacks by the Trumps.” Wilson added that Weaver’s behavior was apparently an open secret among “gay Twitter,” as well as with New York and Washington-based reporters.
“I’m not on gay Twitter so I don’t follow that set of dialogues. The fact that it was an open secret there does not make it something that we were aware of,” he said.
Girdusky criticized the Lincoln Project for not speaking out more strongly against Weaver sooner, although Girdusky says he did not know about Weaver preying on a minor until the Times report was published.
Girdusky was ignored by most mainstream media outlets when he first published his report on Jan. 11.
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“When I wrote the story [for the American Conservative,] I reached out to Lincoln Project,” Girdusky said. “They did not respond with a comment. What they did was they took down their founder’s page on their website … Then when Axios came out, he said ‘I’m gay,’ and then finally when the New York Times comes out, they say, ‘No, he’s a predator.’ Well, where the f— were you for the last month?”
As other sources told Fox, Girdusky said Weaver’s conduct had long been an “open secret.” He said one of his sources wound up going to the Times because he wanted to speak to a larger outlet that would be taken more seriously. Girdusky said he didn’t blame him.
MSNBC skipped 17 interview opportunities to inquire of Lincoln Project members what they knew about Weaver’s behavior between the publication of Girdusky’s report by The American Conservative and the publication of The New York Times piece. When asked last week about it, co-founder George Conway said he was saddened by it but claimed he did not know Weaver that well.
Wilson said anyone who suggested that the Lincoln Project had prior knowlege of Weaver’s behavior toward a minor would be putting themselves in “jeopardy.”
“You want to criticize the Lincoln Project? … Your call,” he said on “The Breakdown.” “But when you try to impute that the kind of behavior he engaged in is a universal constant in our organization, go f— yourself.”
The fallout continued on Friday when Jennifer Horn, the only woman among the Lincoln Project’s eight co-founders, abruptly resigned. She claimed it was over Weaver’s behavior and differing opinions on the Lincoln Project’s future, but the organization then released a statement claiming she had tried to shake it down during the Weaver turmoil for a $250,000 signing bonus and a lucrative montly retainer.
The Lincoln Project has received extensive media coverage, especially by liberal outlets seemingly supportive of its efforts to defeat Trump and his Republican allies. Wilson, Schmidt, Conway, Michael Steele, and others associated with the group are cable news fixtures, and the Lincoln Project received numerous profiles for its anti-Trump efforts.
While Weaver was never physically with his fellow co-founders since it formed, his name appeared in countless news stories about the Lincoln Project, and he was interviewed for a 60 Minutes segment that aired last fall.
Since Trump’s defeat, the truculent group has threatened to ruin Trump administration officials who seek future employment and vowed to continue working against Trump-supporting Republicans.
While some on the left have praised its leaders for a principled stand against their former party, liberals and conservatives alike have criticized the group over its tactics and motives. Some like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have labeled it a scam PAC due to its funneling of liberal donor money to vendors controlled by the group’s founders and an overall lack of return on investment.
The group failed to elect Democrats it supported in numerous 2020 Senate races, including Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Montana, Kentucky, and Iowa, and studies found its vitriolic ads, while appealing to the liberal media, actually turned off conservative voters even more.
Weaver worked for both John McCain in 2000 and John Kasich in 2016 during their presidential runs. In a statement, a Kasich staffer denied any knowledge of Weaver’s predatory behavior, which he was engaging in while working for Kasich’s campaign.