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The Twists, Turns, and Political Nightmare Surrounding Matt Schlapp and Carlton Huffman
Huffman's decision to share his story after the conclusion of the Herschel Walker Senate race instead of privately notifying Schlapp, adds another layer of intrigue to the situation.
Matt Schlapp, a prominent figure in CPAC, and Carlton Huffman, a longtime Republican National Committee operative, find themselves headed to court due to an incident involving alleged "groping." This complex and nuanced case has taken unexpected twists and turns.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Carlton Huffman for an in-depth interview, where he expressed that a public apology would have sufficed, and he wouldn't have resorted to filing a lawsuit. Interestingly, Huffman didn’t privately notify Schlapp but chose to share his story with The Daily Beast after the conclusion of Herschel Walker's Senate race.
But before we dive in, let’s look at the parties involved.
Who is Matt Schlapp?
Matt Schlapp is the definition of an establishment politician. That’s not meant to be pejorative, although in recent years “establishment politician” has almost become a slur. Though slightly diminished in recent years, he remains a prominent figure within the Republican party. Schlapp has been involved in Republican politics for decades in various roles. Notably, he was the political director for George W. Bush. Schlapp is perhaps best known as the chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), a position he has held since 2014. The ACU is responsible for organizing the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a major gathering of conservative activists and leaders. Previously, CPAC was known as the “kingmaker” for anointing the presidential Republican nominee. His wife, Mercedes Viana Schlapp worked during George W. Bush’s term as the Director of Speciality Media. She also served as a spokesperson for the White House under the Trump administration.
Mercedes Schlapp, along with her husband Matt Schlapp, is a notable political commentator and strategist who gained prominence through their appearances on Fox News. However, in recent months, they have been seen less frequently on Fox and more often on its competitor Newsmax. It is unclear whether this change is intentional on Fox's part, possibly due to the legal lawsuits filed against them. Matt and Mercedes have been married for over 21 years and have five daughters.
Who is Carlton Huffman?
Carlton Huffman is a highly experienced political operative, known for his impressive track record in managing various political campaigns. Since 2012, he has built a remarkable affiliation with the Republican Party, showcasing his unwavering commitment to their core principles. It is intriguing that his professional LinkedIn bio begins with the phrase "Servant of Jesus Christ," highlighting his personal faith and values. But then again, Huffman is from the South and he is a fixture in the Republican Party.
Throughout his career, Huffman has worked with prominent organizations and figures within the RNC, including the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and the North Carolina Republican Party, and served as a staffer in the US House of Representatives under the guidance of Mark Meadows. These experiences have provided him with a deep understanding of the political landscape.
During the incident in question, Huffman served as a staffer for the Herschel Walker campaign. After Walker lost his race, Huffman briefly worked at the North Carolina General Assembly as a policy advisor to the Speaker of the House, Tim Moore. However, Huffman's resignation became necessary when his previous connections to white supremacist ideologies were brought to light. “Those views that I expressed represent a time in my life that I am not proud of,” Huffman said in an interview in January after his resignation. “Views that I have shifted from, that I disavow.”
Controversy Unleashed: Tequila, a Dive Bar, and a Case of He-Said, He-Said
According to the lawsuit, on the weekend of October 19, 2022, Carlton Huffman was working as a mid-level staff member for the Herschel Walker campaign. As part of his job duties, it was common to provide assistance at campaign events. Schlapp was a guest speaker at an event in Perry, Georgia which was two hours outside of Atlanta. After the event, Huffman was tasked by the Walker Campaign to drive Schlapp back to his hotel between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Since Schlapp was scheduled to attend an event in Macon the next day the two men exchanged telephone numbers. The lawsuit details that at 3:14 pm, Schlapp texted Huffman asking if he wanted “to grab a beer.”
The two men agreed to meet at the restaurant and Schlapp was finishing his dinner with a donor when Huffman arrived and waited at the bar. During our interview, I inquired from Huffman whether the meetup was on or off the clock. Huffman shrugged and indicated that on campaigns, “you’re never really off the clock.” He also chimed in that it wasn’t abnormal to go out with VIPs for a drink after events. The bar at the restaurant was quiet and uncrowded. Mr. Schlapp made clear that he wanted to go to a livelier place. Huffman suggested a watering hole called, Manuel’s Tavern.
Here are the events of the night in question as alleged in the Complaint:
Mr. Schlapp sat unusually close to Mr. Doe, such that his leg repeatedly contacted and was in almost constant contact with Mr. Doe's leg. Mr. Schlapp was so close to Mr. Doe that he bumped into Mr. Doe's torso where Mr. Doe had a Sig Sauer handgun holstered, asked about it, and professed an unfamiliarity with this weapon and firearms generally. Mr. Schlapp also encouraged Mr. Doe to have more drinks, despite the fact that Mr. Doe was driving. Mr. Schlapp's behavior made Mr. Doe uncomfortable, and Mr. Doe sought to create distance between he and Mr. Schlapp. Mr. Doe turned his attention to a television broadcast of a Major League Baseball playoff game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros to avoid Mr. Schlapp's seeming advance. Mr. Schlapp noticed Mr. Doe's discomfort, and ask Mr. Doe why he would not look at him. After Mr. Schlapp persisted in his uncomfortably close contact with Mr. Doe, to escape the situation, Mr. Doe pointed out that they had to leave early in the morning for Macon, and offered to return Mr. Schlapp to the Hotel. On the drive from Manuel's Tavern to the Hotel, Mr. Schlapp placed his hand on Mr. Doe's leg. Mr. Doe was frozen with shock, mortification, and fear from what was happening, particularly given Mr. Schlapp's power and status in conservative political circles. Mr. Doe did not consent to Mr. Schlapp placing his hand on Mr. Doe's leg. Then, Mr. Schlapp moved his hand and began aggressively fondling Mr. Doe's genital area in a sustained fashion. Again, Mr. Doe was frozen with fear and panic from what was happening. Mr. Doe did not consent to Mr. Schlapp's fondling of his genital area. When they reached the Hotel, Mr. Schlapp invited Mr. Doe to come to his hotel room. Mr. Doe declined the invitation.
Carlton Huffman and I met on Zoom for an interview, had a subsequent telephone call, and also exchanged a few text messages to clarify additional facts. While the gist of his allegations remained consistent with the above account alleged in the newspaper, he did provide some context not found in the court papers. For instance, the drive from Manuel’s Tavern to the Schlapp’s hotel was about 15 minutes and Schlapp had his hand on Hoffman’s leg for the entire ride. It was upon turning into the hotel parking lot that Hoffman alleges that Matt groped him and asked him if he wanted to come upstairs. Huffman made a personal video and several phone calls that night. He also detailed to me how the campaign was supportive and found another staffer to transport Schlapp to the hotel.
Uncovering Mr. Huffman's Troubling Past: A Complicated Journey of Racism and Redemption
Mr. Huffman's past has come to light, revealing a troubling history that he had hoped would remain hidden. During our interview, he presented himself as a polished individual with a charming Southern demeanor, influenced by his grandfather's political career. However, when discussing the allegations of racism, his explanations seemed pitch-perfect and almost too rehearsed.
He attempted to justify his views by describing them as a product of his "Dukes of Hazard" worldview, claiming that his support for the Confederacy was rooted in heritage and a desire to preserve American history. He attributed his radicalization to manipulative groups that exploit genuine concerns. While he acknowledged the possibility of being associated with white nationalism and white supremacy, he asserted that he experienced a transformative awakening in 2013 following the death of Eric Garner.
It appears that Mr. Huffman is now facing the consequences of his past actions as his past racism was leaked. He had hoped to bury his racist inclinations and move forward as a changed man, but now he must confront and atone for his previous behavior. The sincerity of his desire to change and make amends remains a point of scrutiny, he has a carefully constructed narrative and a smooth, likable southern demeanor.
Defamation and Divorce
The alleged groping lawsuit brought allegations of defamation and conspiracy against conservative organizer Matt Schlapp, his wife Mercedes Schlapp, and conservative fundraiser Caroline Wren. The second complaint claims that the Schlapps and Wren colluded to tarnish the accuser's reputation. According to the lawsuit seeking $9.4 million in damages, Wren is not named as a party.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, Carlton Huffman and his wife have filed for an uncontested divorce. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Huffman's wife confirmed their impending divorce, citing Matt Schlapp as a major factor in their marital breakdown. She expressed her belief that the alleged sexual assault and the strain it placed on their relationship significantly contributed to their decision. Drawing from her personal experience, she highlighted the emotional impact of assault and emphasized the challenges of working on a campaign away from home with unfamiliar individuals. She firmly believed that these circumstances, combined with the alleged incident, further worsened their already strained marriage.
Carlton Huffman Accused of Sexual Assault by a 19 & 22 Year Old
In a twist of events, Huffman who previously accused CPAC leader Matt Schlapp of sexual misconduct and defamation faced his own sexual battery claim in February of 2023. Huffman was ordered by a judge to stay away from a former housemate in Raleigh, North Carolina, following her accusations of unwanted sexual acts. Court documents reveal that the incident allegedly occurred on Valentine's Day, shortly after the accuser moved in with Huffman. The Raleigh Police Department has reportedly closed the case with no pending charges against Huffman. Two women, ages 19 and 22, accused Huffman of performing sex acts on them, inside his Raleigh apartment without their consent.
The Case is Headed for Trial
The incident involving alleged "groping" between Matt Schlapp and Carlton Huffman has taken unexpected twists and turns, leading to a complex and nuanced legal case. While Matt Schlapp remains a prominent figure in the Republican Party and the chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), he has faced further turmoil with the CPAC treasurer's resignation.
Huffman's decision to share his story with The Daily Beast after the conclusion of the Herschel Walker Senate race instead of privately notifying Schlapp, adds another layer of intrigue to the situation. In our interview, Huffman expressed that a public apology would have sufficed and he wouldn't have resorted to filing a lawsuit. So his move to air his story with The Daily Beast does raise eyebrows.
It's important to note that despite efforts to seek Matt Schlapp's perspective on the matter, no response was received. His attorneys have denied the allegations to other media outlets. We will update this story if Mr. Schlapp would like to provide a statement.