On Monday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest’s campaign for governor invited supporters to a high-dollar fundraiser on May 15 at Chef & the Farmer, the acclaimed Kinston restaurant owned by star chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, who appeared together on the hit PBS documentary series A Chef’s Life

That invite, which the INDY obtained, appeared to suggest not only that Forest’s campaign rented out the restaurant for the evening, but that Knight and Scarlette Howard, Vivian’s mother, were participating in the fundraiser. For a $1,000 per couple, it promised, donors could “learn more about the story behind Chef & the Farmer and A Chef’s Life from Ben Knight & Scarlett Howard!”

That seemed odd, however, considering that Howard and Knight are both registered Democrats, according to the State Board of Elections. (Scarlett Howard is an unaffiliated voter who voted in Democratic primaries until 2008 and Republican ones thereafter.) It seemed odd, too, because Forest—a Trump-backed hardline social conservative who once defended HB 2 by insisting that “transgenderism is a feeling” and has ties to a weird fundamentalist church that allegedly tried to literally beat the gay demons out of congregants—isn’t the kind of guy a lot of Democrats cross party lines for. 

And it also seemed odd that, by Thursday, Knight and Scarlett Howard’s names had been scrubbed from the event posting on Forest’s website

As it turns out, that’s because Vivian Howard’s attorney told Forest’s campaign to remove them, says Howard’s personal assistant, Holley Pierce. According to Pierce, neither Knight nor Scarlett Howard had agreed to take part in the fundraiser.

“We had to have our attorney address it,” Pierce told the INDY Friday. “They’re just renting out the restaurant.”

It’s unclear why Forest’s team appeared to suggest otherwise in its invitation. Heather Whillier, Forest’s finance director, who is listed as the event’s contact person, has not responded to the INDY’s phone call and email seeking comment. 

The fundraiser runs from 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. on Wednesday. It’ll cost you $1,000 per couple to attend. If you’re feeling generous, you could become a host for $2,500 or a chair for $5,400, according to Forest’s website.

Of course, if you’ve got that kind of money to blow, we can think of better ways to do it. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at jbillman@indyweek.com. 

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