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Man drops sexual assault lawsuit against conservative leader Matt Schlapp

Mar 2, 2023; National Harbor, MD, USA; Matt Schlapp, CPAC Chairman, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on March 2, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY
Matt Schlapp Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY via IMAGN

Carlton Huffman, the Republican strategist who sued American Conservative Union [ACU] leader Matt Schlapp over an alleged sexual assault, has dropped his lawsuit. Huffman, who worked for the failed campaign of Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia, accused Schlapp of “aggressively fondling” his crotch while driving Schlapp back to his hotel from a bar during an October 2022 campaign stop.

“I am 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,” Carlton Huffman wrote in a statement provided by Schlapp’s spokesperson, The Hill reported.

Huffman’s lawsuit sought $9.4 million from Schlapp and his wife, both for his alleged assault and their alleged attempts to defame Huffman after details of his accusation became publicly known. Schlapp is the chair of the ACU as well as the lead organizer for the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

“The Schlapps have advised that the statements made about me were the result of a misunderstanding, which was regrettable,” Huffman said, adding, “Neither the Schlapps nor the ACU paid me anything to dismiss my claims against them.”

Huffman said CPAC knew of Schlapp’s repeated misconduct

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 had 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 the staffer to tell Schlapp in writing that he made him uncomfortable.

The staffer 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 the staffer never did.

Huffman’s lawsuit claimed that other CPAC members knew about several instances of Schlapp sexually abusing younger men but did nothing about it.

His lawsuit alleged that in one 2017 incident, Schlapp tried to kiss a male employee without his consent. In a separate incident, during a fundraising trip in Florida in 2022, Schlapp allegedly took off all his clothes (except his underwear) and rubbed himself against another man without his consent. The lawsuit alleges that the ACU, which runs CPAC, knew about his behavior and did nothing to stop him or remove him from power.

Schlapp denied the accusations but admitted to going to two bars with Huffman that night. Schlapp claimed that the accusations made him and his family suffer “unbearable pain and stress.”

The accusations led to the downfall of CPAC, with multiple board members resigning after the accusations became public. Half of CPAC’s staff has left the organization since 2021. One board member who resigned said that the organization had paid $1 million in legal fees up until August.

Schlapp’s lawyer slams media for repeating accusations

Schapp blamed the accusations on “fake journalists” and said that criticism was coming from “those with an ax to grind.”

In a statement, Schlapp’s lawyer Ben Chew said the accusations against his client were “a case of malicious piling… from selective leaks from non-party insiders with chips on their shoulders to others who did not prove worthy of the Schlapps’ trust, and of course, certain agenda-driven media who appeared all too eager to destroy conservatives like the Schlapps.”

“Increasingly, they [the left] have gained a stranglehold on the mainstream media, social media, and the legal system which they use to try to silence, shame and bankrupt Americans who have contrary, yet correct viewpoints,” Chew continued. “We learned we must stand our ground and fight or else the haters on the left will destroy every conservative and ultimately our nation.”

CPAC has always been a hotbed of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Donald Trump Jr., and the former president himself have all launched diatribes against the trans community in recent years.

When Richard Grenell, the gay former ambassador to Germany, shared the experience of Gina Roberts, a trans woman who attended CPAC with the Log Cabin Republicans during a speech in 2021, he was denounced for showing support for trans people. GOP celebrity activist Caitlyn Jenner was repeatedly heckled, stalked, deadnamed, and ridiculed when she attended when she ran in the California gubernatorial race as a Republican.

The gay conservative group GOProud, which is now defunct, was banned from the event. Still, so many closeted gay men have historically attended the conference the Human Rights Campaign paid for ads on the gay app Grindr to target them specifically.

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