GOP organizer allegedly paid half a million to a man he fondled to drop his sexual assault lawsuit

Feb 27, 2020: Vice President Mike Pence is introduced by Matt Schlapp at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
Feb 27, 2020: Vice President Mike Pence is introduced by Matt Schlapp at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

American Conservative Union (ACU) chair Matt Schlapp paid $480,000 to Carlton Huffman, the man who accused him of sexually assaulting him in a car over a year ago, to get Huffman to drop his lawsuit, according to CNN’s sources.

“I am only legally allowed to say five words, and that is ‘We have resolved our differences,’” Huffman told CNN when reached for comment about what the unnamed sources said. “Those are the only five words that I’m legally allowed to say.”

Huffman worked for the failed campaign of Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia in 2022. He later said that, as part of his work duties, he had to drive Schlapp around, and that’s when Schlapp assaulted him.

Huffman initially said that Schlapp “groped” and “fondled” his genitals in the car and that his actions were “sustained and unwanted and unsolicited.” He also said that, before the groping, Schlapp had been making advances toward him while out at two bars – buying him drinks and violating his personal space while claiming he wanted to discuss the staffer’s professional future.

During the incident with Schlapp in the car, the staffer said he was in shock and frozen, but when Schlapp subsequently invited him up to his hotel room, he said no and fled.

“Matt Schlapp of the CPAC grabbed my junk and pummeled it at length, and I’m sitting there thinking what the hell is going on, that this person is literally doing this to me,” Huffman said in one video he made explaining the incident.

“From the bar to the Hilton Garden Inn, he has his hands on me. And I feel so f**king dirty. I feel so f**king dirty. I’m supposed to pick this motherf**ker up in the morning and just pretend like nothing happened,” he added.

But when Schlapp showed up for the ride the next day, the staffer said he couldn’t do it. He called a senior official with Walker’s campaign, who he said was “horrified” and that he should not drive Schlapp. The campaign official also told Huffman to tell Schlapp in writing that he made him uncomfortable.

Huffman shared his text exchange with Schlapp with the Daily Beast. After he told Schlapp he made him uncomfortable, Schlapp repeatedly begged him to call, but Huffman never did.

Huffman sued both Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, for the sexual assault and alleged defamation, asking for over $9 million. Schlapp said that he didn’t do anything.

“From the beginning, I asserted my innocence,” said Schlapp, who was also a lead organizer of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in a statement. “Our family was attacked, especially by a left-wing media that is focused on the destruction of conservatives regardless of the truth and the facts.”

Huffman dropped his lawsuit yesterday. A statement attributed to Huffman but issued by Schlapp’s lawyer said that Huffman was “discontinuing all of my lawsuits. The claims made in my lawsuits were the result of a complete misunderstanding, and I regret that the lawsuit caused pain to the Schlapp family.”

“Neither the Schlapps nor the ACU paid me anything to dismiss my claims against them,” the statement said.

Huffman’s complete renunciation of his accusations surprised observers. However, several unnamed sources familiar with the legal proceedings told CNN that a $480,000 settlement was paid to Huffman from an insurance policy, which may be why the statement only said that the Schlapps and the ACU didn’t pay Huffman anything.

Huffman’s lawyer, Tim Hyland, was tight-lipped, not answering questions and just saying: “The parties have resolved their differences.”

Schlapp’s legal team only referred CNN back to Huffman’s statement when asked about the settlement.

While Schlapp claimed victory on social media, sharing a Washington Examiner article about the lawsuit being dropped with a pointing-finger emoji, not all Republicans are ready to believe him.

“As far as I know, the facts were never disputed,” one former Walker campaign official told CNN. “I had no indication that Carlton fabricated his story, then or now. Matt knew me well enough to call me, he never called me.”

One of CNN’s sources said that they know Huffman was ready to go to court so it was unlikely that he would have dropped his lawsuit for no reason.

“He wouldn’t have dropped it, his name and reputation were already public, he was ready to go to court,” the source said. “I know [Huffman] definitely got paid.”

A different source said that Schlapp and his wife “did not want this to go to trial, they simply did not want the testimony that would come out.”

“It’s not exoneration if you paid the guy off.”

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