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Lawsuit accusing Matt Schlapp of sexual misconduct comes to an end

A lawsuit accusing Matt Schlapp, the influential leader of the Conservative Political Action Conference, of sexual misconduct is being ended, according to both sides.

The lawsuit began last year when a Republican operative, Carlton Huffman, alleged that Schlapp groped him without his consent during a political trip to Georgia in October 2022, then said in the suit that Schlapp also defamed him by denying the allegation and attacking his credibility.

“The parties have resolved their differences,” Huffman’s lawyer, Timothy Hyland, wrote in an email Tuesday.

Separately, CPAC’s board of directors issued a statement saying it was “pleased to learn about the favorable conclusion of the litigation against CPAC and Matt Schlapp.”

The terms of the resolution were not disclosed.

Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, celebrated the outcome in another statement, saying they “emerge from this ordeal stronger as husband and wife, stronger as parents to our five daughters, stronger as friends to those who stood by us.” Their attorney, Ben Chew, released a statement criticizing the case as a “text-book example of the politics of personal destruction.”

Huffman had sought $9.4 million in damages for alleged sexual battery and defamation. Schlapp denied Huffman’s claims that Schlapp groped Huffman and invited him to his hotel room during the trip to Atlanta to campaign for Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

Schlapp acknowledged meeting Huffman at two bars that night but denied his other allegations. He did not explain text messages released by Huffman in which Huffman wrote to Schlapp, “I was uncomfortable with what happened last night,” and Schlapp responded, “If you could see it in your heart to call me.”

Call logs, texts and videos provided by Huffman and his confidants to The Washington Post and in his lawsuit broadly matched his account that he had quickly shared the allegation with six family members and friends. Three Walker campaign officials also confirmed to The Post that he told them about the alleged incident that night or the next day.

Huffman initially filed the lawsuit anonymously but came forward publicly in March 2023 after a judge said he must use his real name to proceed with the case.

Schlapp has long been the face of CPAC, best known for its annual gathering that has become closely aligned with former president Donald Trump and his political allies.

The litigation led to extensive depositions and subpoenas that were poised to produce potentially embarrassing revelations if the case had proceeded to trial. Those subpoenaed included two people who alleged previous incidents of sexual misconduct by Schlapp. As for Huffman, The Post previously reported that he was himself accused of sexual battery after the alleged incident with Schlapp. He also disavowed past white-supremacist views.

CPAC’s parent organization, the American Conservative Union (ACU), had paid more than $1 million in legal fees as of August, as the discovery process was in the early stages, according to a former board member’s resignation letter.

Several board members and scores of staff members have left in the past several years in protest of Schlapp’s leadership and financial stewardship. Some former board members have called on him to step aside, but he has consolidated support among the current directors.

“The Board of Directors stands squarely behind Matt Schlapp as the leader of this organization,” the current board said in its statement.

The ACU traces its origins to the aftermath of Barry Goldwater’s loss in the 1964 presidential election as a prime venue for gathering and growing the conservative movement.

Under Schlapp’s leadership, CPAC has expanded into a global conference series, with multiple events each year across the United States and around the world, increasingly tied to Trump, his MAGA movement and foreign far-right leaders such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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