GOP strategist goes public in sexual assault case against conservative leader Matt Schlapp


The Republican political strategist who accused conservative leader Matt Schlapp, the powerful chairman of the American Conservative Union, of sexual assault is revealing his identity after a judge ruled Wednesday that he cannot proceed with his lawsuit anonymously.

Carlton Huffman, 39, was working for Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign when Huffman said Schlapp groped and groped him without consent as he drove the ACU president from two area bars at an Atlanta hotel several weeks before the midterm elections in November.

Huffman, who gave CNN permission to use his name before the court decision was made public, plans to move forward with his civil lawsuit, which seeks more than $9 million in damages for alleged sexual assault, defamation and conspiracy to challenge the accuser.

In a statement provided to CNN, Huffman said: “On October 19, 2022, Matt Schlapp tried to take my dignity, but he didn’t take my voice. Today, I reclaim that voice and for every victim of sexual assault, I am here to say that there is justice and that there will be accountability. I look forward to our day in court.”

Benjamin Chew, the Schlapps’ attorney, told CNN, “The Schlapps are pleased with the Court’s decision.”

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Schlapps, said in a separate statement: “We are confident that when his full record is revealed in a court of law, we will prevail. Out of respect for the court, we have no further comment at this time.”

An attorney for Huffman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schlapp, known for his role in organizing ACU’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference, has denied Huffman’s claims. But some Republicans linked the reduced interest and turnout at last week’s CPAC rally in Maryland, which was also torn by internal disputes over former President Donald Trump, to allegations against Schlapp.

“It’s a scandal,” a Republican operative who has worked on several presidential campaigns told CNN. “If you’re thinking about running for president and you’re not Donald Trump, you can’t afford a mistake. You can’t afford to be associated with a scandal.”

Huffman was working for the Georgia GOP and Walker’s campaign at the time and was assigned to drive Schlapp to campaign events in the Atlanta area.

Huffman, who was listed as John Doe in the original lawsuit, alleges that after he made his accusations, Schlapp and Mercedes Schlapp, his wife, engaged in “dishonest efforts” along with “others associated and acting in concert with them . to discredit Mr. Dow.”

The suit goes on to allege that, as a result of the Schlapps’ alleged conspiracy, Huffman “suffered damages, including without limitation embarrassment, humiliation, distress and reputational damage.”

Despite occasionally disagreeing with Trump before the 2016 presidential election, Matt Schlapp and the ACU have since become staunch supporters of the former president. Schlapp, who served in the George W. Bush White House as director of political affairs, took over the organization in 2014. Mercedes Schlapp worked as Trump’s communications director for nearly two years, from 2017 to 2019.

ACU leadership defended Schlapp after the allegations were made public earlier this year, calling the initial report an attempted “character assassination.” The group’s first and second vice presidents added, “We stand fully behind Matt Schlapp and the ACU Board of Trustees has complete confidence in his leadership of the organization.”

Huffman said he had agreed to meet Schlapp for a beer in October because he was “willing to make a connection” because of Schlapp’s prominence in the Republican Party. The men met for drinks at two Atlanta bars, and while at the second bar, the lawsuit says Schlapp “sat unusually close to Mr. Doe such that his leg repeatedly made contact and was in almost constant contact with Mr. Doe’s leg Doe”. making him uncomfortable, according to the lawsuit.

Huffman claimed that as he was driving Schlapp to his hotel, Schlapp “began aggressively stroking (his) genital area in a continuous manner,” the lawsuit states, causing Huffman to freeze in “fear and panic at what was happening ».

Later that afternoon, Schlapp called Huffman, according to a call log reviewed by CNN, to confirm that Huffman would drive him to another Walker event the next morning. After receiving the call, Huffman said he broke down and memorialized what happened by recording video of himself describing the alleged assault.

“Matt Schlapp, of CPAC, grabbed my junk and slammed it across. And I’m sitting there (in the car) and I’m like, “What the hell is going on that this person with his wife and kids is literally doing this from Manuel’s Tavern to the Hilton Garden Inn over there at the Atlanta airport.” Huffman said in one of the self-recorded clips, which CNN reviewed. “He literally has his hands on me. And I feel so dirty. Feel so dirty the king. So I don’t know what to do in the morning.”

Huffman eventually decided to tell top Walker campaign officials about the alleged incident. He was immediately asked not to drive the Schlapp and to provide a phone number for a car service.

Senior Walker campaign officials confirmed to CNN that they spoke with Huffman and immediately notified the campaign’s lawyers. A source told CNN that Huffman was offered options, including legal counsel, contacting law enforcement, a therapist or, if he wanted, speaking to reporters. The source added that she thought Huffman was angry and saddened by the situation.

The lawsuit also said that, after the sexual assault allegations first came to light earlier this month, Mercedes Schlapp allegedly sent a message to a neighborhood “chat or message” group claiming the accuser was a “problem person ” who had been fired from multiple jobs, including “lying and lying on his resume.”

Huffman, in the deposition, said he has never been fired from a job for lying or lying on his resume and claimed the Schlapps have engaged in a “campaign to impeach him.”

Tim Hyland, an attorney for Huffman, said in an earlier statement that, “Because Mr. Schlapp has refused to respond to his misconduct, this lawsuit aims to hold Mr. Schlapp and those who lie about him accountable for their actions their. ”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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