What did the GOP--and Trump--know about Matt Schlapp's alleged male-on-male sexual misconduct?
With rumors swirling about Schlapp for years, it's hard to believe Republican politicians, and DC media, weren't aware of the CPAC chair's activities.
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The floodgates are beginning to open on the Matt Schlapp scandal. And as they do, we’ll also learn more about who knew about him and when.
The Washington Post last weekend published another bombshell about Schlapp, the chair of the Conservative Political Action Conference and chair of the organization that hosts CPAC, the American Conservative Union.
A senior board member of the ACU, Vice Chairman Charlie Gerow, resigned on Friday, the Post reported, urging the board to conduct an independent investigation regarding more allegations of sexual misconduct by Schlapp. (Schlapp didn’t respond to the Post for comment, and Matt Smith, a member of the ACU executive board, told the Post, "These allegations are completely fabricated and represent a blatant attempt by Mr. Gerow and disgruntled individuals to force Mr. Schlapp to step down." )
Schlapp had been accused earlier in the year by a male political aide working on Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s campaign of making unwanted sexual advances, including groping his crotch.
Carlton Huffman, who first told his story anonymously to the Daily Beast, eventually went public after Schlapp’s denials and filed a lawsuit against Schlapp for sexual battery and defamation. The Walker campaign was supportive of Carlton; three campaign workers would eventually tell the media that he told them what happened shortly after the incident.
And now the Post has revealed information about two more allegations:
In addition to that lawsuit, some board members and staffers have been told about other incidents involving Schlapp, 55, and two younger men, multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation said.
In one incident, a staffer said Schlapp attempted to kiss him while drinking late after a work function in 2017. The staffer also provided documentation from that night to The Washington Post showing physical contact that the staffer said was unsolicited.
It is the second allegation, however, that raises eyebrows and, for me, also raises the question of what the GOP and Donald Trump knew about Schlapp and his activities. As the Post describes the second allegation:
In another incident, Schlapp allegedly made unwanted physical advances on someone else’s employee during a CPAC business trip in Palm Beach, Fla., in early 2022, according to multiple people informed of the incident. The alleged victim did not respond to requests for comment.
Is "someone else’s employee" an employee of Donald Trump?
The most obvious business trip Schlapp, a close ally of Trump, would make to Palm Beach would be to visit Mar-a-Lago. In fact, in early 2022, when the Post says this unwanted sexual advance happened, CPAC was held in Orlando, Florida, and just a day before it kicked off, Trump hosted a political event at Mar-a-Lago for conservative supporters of his PAC, many of whom were attending CPAC. That was a couple of days before Trump headed to CPAC himself to give a speech. It’s conceivable that Schlapp was at the Mar-a-Lago event or at the club at some point during that time.
If an employee of Mar-a-Lago was sexually harassed by Schlapp, did that person report it to Mar-a-Lago management, and did they investigate or cover it up? What did Trump know? And regardless of what happened there, did Trump know anything else about Schlapp, and for how long? The rumors that Schlapp—a devout supporter who Trump kept close—was involved with men, though he was married to Mercedes Schlapp, who worked for Trump in the White House, had been around for a long time.
Now we have three allegations of unwanted sexual advances that have gone public. If true, it’s likely there are many more. And what about consensual sex with men? Are we really to believe that that didn’t happen if these allegations of advances are true and that GOP leaders and others didn’t know?
What did those in the Beltway political media know? If the allegations we know of are true, it’s hard to believe reporters had not heard of them, and certainly they knew of the rumors of Schlapp’s involvements with men.
CPAC has been a vile forum for the most horrific attacks on LGBTQ people, hosting a platform for extremist groups, right-wing activists, and anti-LGBTQ politicians for years. That was something I focused on in the first piece I wrote after the first allegation against Schlapp went public:
I’ve covered CPAC for years — until the pandemic struck — and not only witnessed the anti-LGBTQ panel discussions and comments from speakers, but interviewed prominent speakers who pushed a Christian nationalist agenda of hate. And I’ve interviewed, and argued with, Schlapp over allowing this kind of bile. He defended it as part of the "big tent" of the conservative movement.
Just last August CPAC attendees gave a standing ovation to Hungary’s authoritarian leader Victor Orban — invited to CPAC even after he came out against "mixed-race" marriages — who gave a brutal anti-gay speech, that also pushed "groomer" smears:
Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parents and children. To sum up, the mother is a woman, the father is a man, and leave our kids alone. Full stop. End of discussion!
In a second piece I wrote after that first allegation earlier this year, headlined "Matt Schlapp and the closets of power," I described how Schlapp fit the profile of the powerful, closeted men I reported on in my book "Queer in America" decades ago, men who attacked the gay community while they were secretly gay themselves, often engaging in sexual harassment in the workplace because they had few outlets in which to have sex since they couldn’t go out in public.
Surely the sexual orientation—and sexual involvements—of CPAC’s chair are relevant to report in light of the vicious homophobia CPAC promotes and the rumors about Schlapp, which, again, it’s hard to believe reporters didn’t know about. Did they just cover it up, running away from the issue?
I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg on this story. I believe we’ll see that this is a story that could have been done—and should have been done—long ago about a major league hypocrite helping to do terrible harm to queer people.