The "raid" on a house in Arlington, Va., actually involved actors recruited by Jacob Wohl, who has a history of making false accusations and has orchestrated dubious events in an effort to smear perceived opponents of President Donald Trump.
This time, Wohl recruited actors to pose as FBI agents, telling them they would be participating in a scene for a "TV pilot," one of the actors involved told the Daily Beast. The actors donned FBI-style windbreakers and pretended they were raiding a house during early-morning hours.
It appears Wohl used photos of the event to trick a reporter into believing that Wohl's longtime associate, Jack Burkman, was being targeted by law enforcement officials. The intended purpose of the deception was not clear.
In a story written by Metro reporter Rachel Weiner, The Post briefly reported Monday that a real FBI raid had taken place. The story was updated about two hours later to note that the raid was a fabrication.
The story unfolded as a confluence of outright falsehoods by Burkman and Wohl coupled with lapses by Post journalists.
A purported neighbor of Burkman emailed a tip to the Post on Monday morning to report "a bunch of commotion" outside Burkman's house. "His house was being raided by the FBI," said the email, which included a link to photos and video of the alleged raid.
Burkman and Wohl later corroborated this version of events to The Post; Wohl said agents had taken computers, papers and cellphones.
Burkman is longtime conservative lobbyist and recent conspiracist. Together with Wohl, a 22-year-old former hedge fund manager with a history of investment scandals, the pair have mounted several failed media stunts.
Among others, the pair hosted a "news" conference in late 2018 to lay out alleged sexual assault claims against special counselor Robert Mueller; Mueller's supposed accuser never materialized. They also tried in 2019 to paint then-Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as a sexual predator; that stunt blew up when the supposed accuser said the allegations were entirely made up and that he had been paid to make them.
When The Post initally contacted the FBI, the Bureau said that it could not confirm or deny that a raid had taken place in Burkman's neighborhood.
News organizations usually are reluctant to report on police activities without direct confirmation from an authoritative source; in this instance, Burkman and Wohl were the only ones to confirm the events in the original version of the story.
Metro editor Mike Semel reviewed the story an hour or so after it had been published and was struck by the absence of FBI confirmation and ordered further reporting.
By then, the Daily Beast had posted a more detailed story, noting that the raid had been staged and that the photos from the purported neighbor that appeared on Twitter had probably been posted under an assumed name by Wohl.
In the meantime, the FBI issued a statement, affirming that no raid had taken place. The Post's initial story was updated to reflect this by mid-afternoon, about two hours after the first story was published. The updated story carried an editor's note reading: "After initial publication of this story, additional reporting indicates that the raid was staged. The story will continue to be updated."
A Post spokesperson, Shani George, later issued a statement that read: "The Post earlier today published an erroneous story about a purported FBI raid on the home of conservative operative Jack Burkman. The FBI has since said that the raid did not take place. Our story was published because we failed to obtain appropriate confirmation."
In a follow-up interview Monday afternoon, Burkman stood by his story. Asked whether the raid on his home was fabricated, Burkman said "the only thing I can say is I stand by what I told The Post earlier and I wish you the best" before hanging up the phone.
He added, without irony, "You have to remember in journalism you have to be careful - I'm not saying you did this - creating your own reality and ensnaring yourself in those realities."
Wohl could not be reached for comment.
One of the actors who responded to the Craigslist ad, Tommy Abraham, told the Daily Beast that the ad offered $400 in cash to white male actors who agreed to wear FBI badges and windbreakers for a series of scenes at Burkman's house. Abraham said he exchanged emails with the person organizing the production, who identified himself as Jacob Klein. But Abraham told the publication that he discovered after meeting the man on Monday that he was actually Wohl.
Abraham also told the Daily Beast the promised cash payments never materialized. Instead, the actors were asked to email their names and addresses to Burkman so that he could mail them checks.