CPAC’s Matt Schlapp settles sexual assault lawsuit from campaign staffer

A man who once accused one of Washington DC’s highest-profile Republican operatives of sexually assaulting him has rescinded his allegations after receiving a more than $400,000 legal settlement.

Matt Schlapp, head of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering, was accused by Carlton Huffman – a campaign staffer for then-Senate candidate Herschel Walker – of groping him during a car ride in 2022 while Mr Huffman drove him back to his hotel room.

Mr Huffman further accused Mr Schlapp, who is married to former Trump White House staffer Mercedes Schlapp, of inviting him up to his hotel room.

The CPAC and American Conservative Union leader “placed his hand” on Mr Huffman’s leg and “began aggressively fondling [his] genital area in a sustained fashion”, Mr Huffman’s lawyers said in the original suit.

Now, in a statement first obtained by Politico through the CPAC chief’s spokesperson, Mr Huffman has described the whole thing as a “misunderstanding”.

“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,” Mr Huffman said.

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

CNN reported that Mr Huffman had, in fact, been the recipient of a $480,000 payout. The reason his statement denied this appears to hinge on the wording: it rejects that “the Schlapps nor the ACU paid me”, but conveniently leaves space for a cash settlement paid by a legal insurance firm.

Mr Huffman himself was contacted by CNN about what was essentially a false statement in spirit, if not in letter. He somewhat revealingly responded: “I am only legally allowed to say five words, and that is ‘We have resolved our differences.’ Those are the only five words that I’m legally allowed to say.”

It’s a confusing end to a year-and-a-half-long ordeal which tarred the reputation of Mr Schlapp, who runs the annual conservative gathering in National Harbor through his leadsership of the American Conservative Union. Mr Schlapp had long denied the accusations, which were first made anonymously, but later detailed at length in a piece published in The Daily Beast.

CPAC head Matt Schlapp at his conference in 2024 (Getty Images)
CPAC head Matt Schlapp at his conference in 2024 (Getty Images)

Mr Schlapp “put his hands on me in a sustained and unsolicited and unwanted manner,” Mr Huffman said in a video obtained by The Daily Beast. The video was purported to have been recorded on the night of the incident itself in 2022.

“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,” Mr Huffman would go on to say in the recording.

It remains unclear as to whether there was physical contact between the two men, even as both parties now insist that the matter was a “misunderstanding”. A Walker campaign official who knew Mr Schlapp talked to CNN about the incident said that the CPAC chief never directly disputed Mr Huffman’s account to them when it was first made anonymously.

“As far as I know the facts were never disputed,” they told CNN. “I had no indication that Carlton [Huffman] fabricated his story, then or now. Matt [Schlapp] knew me well enough to call me, he never called me.”

Earlier this year, Mr Schlapp refused to address the matter when asked about it by The Independent at his CPAC conference.

Mr Walker lost his Senate campaign after news reporting revealed that two women whom he had dated alleged that Mr Walker had paid for them to receive abortion services despite his public opposition to the legality of that practice.