Twenty-one men have accused John Weaver, co-founder of The Lincoln Project and a longtime Republican operative, of sending unwanted sexual messages, The New York Times reported on Sunday. One of the men was still in high school when Weaver began messaging him about his body, according to the Times.
Accusations against Weaver were first reported by Forensic News. Several of the men were looking to get into politics, and they told the Times that they felt Weaver—who served as an adviser on John McCain and John Kasich’s presidential campaigns—was using his influence to pressure them into sex.
The Times featured some of the messages Weaver sent the young men including one promising to “spoil you when we see each other. Help you other times. Give advice, counsel, help with bills. You help me … sensually.” Other young men told the Times of Weaver’s alleged sexual suggestiveness, and how they felt he was “exploiting his power” in conversation and messages with them.
Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson is a Daily Beast columnist and co-hosts the podcast, The New Abnormal.
In a statement, Weaver, who has a wife and two children, told the Times, “I am so disheartened and sad that I may have brought discomfort to anyone in what I thought at the time were mutually consensual discussions. In living a deeply closeted life, I allowed my pain to cause pain for others. For that I am truly sorry to these men and everyone and for letting so many people down.”
Steve Schmidt, a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, told the Times its leaders had learned last summer that Weaver had had same-sex relationships, but added, “There was no awareness or insinuations of any type of inappropriate behavior when we became aware of the chatter at the time.”
Weaver had denied the claims made against him, Schmidt told the paper, adding the group was now “outraged and horrified” to learn of his alleged behavior.
In a subsequent statement posted on the organization’s Twitter account, The Lincoln Project wrote that “we extend our deepest sympathies to those targeted by his deplorable and predatory behavior. We are disgusted and outraged that someone in a position of power and trust would use it for these means.” Weaver, the statement read, was “a predator, a liar, and an abuser.”