21 Men Accuse Lincoln Project Co-Founder of Online Sexual Harassment

John Weaver, a longtime G.O.P. operative who advised John McCain and John Kasich, made sexual overtures to young men, sometimes offering to help them get work in politics.

John Weaver, a longtime Republican strategist and co-founder of the prominent anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project, has for years sent unsolicited and sexually provocative messages online to young men, often while suggesting he could help them get work in politics, according to interviews with 21 men who received them.

His solicitations included sending messages to a 14-year-old, asking questions about his body while he was still in high school and then more pointed ones after he turned 18.

These messages from Mr. Weaver, 61, who helped run John McCain’s presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008 and John Kasich’s in 2016, did not lead to physical encounters except in one consensual case, and none of the men accused Mr. Weaver of unlawful conduct. Rather, many of them described feeling preyed upon by an influential older man in the field in which they wanted to work, and believing they had to engage with his repeated messaging or lose a professional opportunity.

Mr. Weaver sent overt sexual solicitations to at least 10 of the men and, in the most explicit messages, offered professional and personal assistance in exchange for sex. He told one man he would “spoil you when we see each other,” according to a message reviewed by The New York Times. “Help you other times. Give advice, counsel, help with bills. You help me … sensually.”

When approached by the Times, leaders at the Lincoln Project said they had been unaware of allegations against Weaver until recently, when those allegations started going viral on social media. 

Co-founder Steve Schmidt said top brass had learned last summer that Weaver might be involved with men through social media posts. 

But Schmidt added: ‘There was no awareness or insinuations of any type of inappropriate behavior when we became aware of the chatter at the time.’  

Weaver’s fall from grace kicked off earlier this month when Ryan Girdusky, a writer for American Conservative, tweeted screenshots of messages Weaver allegedly sent to men who then shared them with Girdusky.  

A former top aide for John McCain and John Kasich, Weaver addressed the allegations in a statement to Axios on January 15, in which the married father-of-two revealed that he is gay.  

‘To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry,’ he wrote.  

‘They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you.’