Israeli PM Candidate Suspends Ties With Lincoln Project Founders After Sexual Misconduct Reports

Israeli prime minister hopeful Gideon Sa'ar has suspended ties with four founders of the Lincoln Project in the wake of reports about alleged sexual misconduct by the organization's co-founder John Weaver.

At the end of January, The New York Times reported that 21 men had accused Weaver of sending inappropriate and sexually provocative messages, which were unsolicited, online. At least one man was underage at the time.

The Lincoln Project, which was founded in 2019 by Republican and former Republican strategists opposed to then-President Donald Trump, quickly cut ties with Weaver and condemned his actions. But the fallout has continued, resulting in other founders leaving the project, as well as closer media scrutiny of the organization's finances.

Sa'ar hired Lincoln Project co-founders Steve Schmidt, Stuart Stevens, Rick Wilson and Reed Galen as advisers in January. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Israeli politician told The Jerusalem Post that he was suspending and reviewing ties with the four men. Notably, Schmidt has parted ways with the Lincoln Project in the wake of the allegations against Weaver. Sa'ar had solicited the help of the four men separately from their work with the anti-Trump group.

Gideon Sa'ar
Gideon Sa'ar speaks during a rally near Tel Aviv, Israel, on December 16, 2019. Sa'ar is leading challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in next month's elections. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty

"We have never worked with the Lincoln Project. The party engaged four senior consultants who were connected with the project. The individual in question is not known to us. We have never had any contact with him and certainly have not worked with him," Sa'ar's spokesperson told the Post. "In any event, due to financial considerations, the contract with the consultants is under review, and in the coming days we will examine the possibility of further cooperation."

Newsweek reached out to Schmidt and the Lincoln Project for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

After the Times reported the allegations about Weaver, the Lincoln Project immediately cut ties with him. The group released a statement on January 31 saying that he had lived a "secret life" and that it was "disgusted" and "outraged" by his actions. But further media reporting has called into question claims from the group's remaining founders that they were unaware of Weaver's alleged misconduct.

In a statement to Axios last month, Weaver more or less admitted that the allegations were true. "To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry," he said. "They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you."

Concerns have also been raised about the Lincoln Project's finances. Although nothing illegal has been alleged, of the $90 million raised by the anti-Trump group, some $50 million has gone to companies controlled by the project's founders, according to the Associated Press.

A poll published Monday by Israel's Channel 13 showed that Sa'ar's New Hope party is currently in third place. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party was in first place, followed by the centrist Yesh Atid party. The country's elections will take place March 23.