WASHINGTON — A Republican operative sued Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a top ally of former President Donald Trump, over allegations of sexual misconduct Tuesday.
The operative, who worked as an aide to Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker last year, told NBC News that Schlapp "reached in between my legs and fondled me" during a car ride that followed a night of drinking at two Atlanta bars on Oct. 19. He is seeking $9.4 million from Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, on four civil counts related to allegations of "sexual battery" and claims that the Schlapps and others dishonestly tried "to discredit" him, according to a copy of the lawsuit.
Both NBC News and The Daily Beast, which first reported the allegation, granted anonymity to the operative, who was concerned about potential professional harm from openly accusing a leader in the conservative movement of unwanted groping. In the lawsuit, he is identified by the pseudonym "John Doe."
“Mr. Doe did not consent to Mr. Schlapp’s fondling of his genital area,” the lawsuit says.
Schlapp has not spoken publicly about the charge, and he did not reply to a request for comment. But he did tweet a response from his family’s attorney, Charlie Spies, on Tuesday.
"The anonymous complaint demonstrates the accuser's real agenda ... to attack and harm the Schlapp family," Spies said. "The complaint is false, and the Schlapp family is suffering unbearable pain and stress due to the false allegation from an anonymous individual."
Spies added that "the Schlapps and their legal team are assessing counter-lawsuit options."
The American Conservative Union is the organization behind the Conservative Political Action Conference, a swap meet of sorts for right-wing political groups and operatives that has become a must-attend event for Republican presidential candidates.
In an interview this month, the operative said Schlapp invited him to meet at an Atlanta bar. He showed up hoping that a stronger connection to Schlapp could help him professionally. The men drank at two bars, and Schlapp began intruding into his physical space, bumping legs, as the night wore on, the operative said. As the operative drove Schlapp to a hotel near the Atlanta airport at the end of the night, Schlapp put his hand on operative's leg, the operative said. Eventually, the operative said in a video he recorded later that night, Schlapp "grabbed my junk and pummeled it at length."
“To my shame, I did not say ‘no’ or ‘stop,’” the operative said in the video, a recollection he repeated in the interview. “God knows it was not a wanted advance.”
When they arrived at the hotel, Schlapp invited the operative up to his room — a request that was declined — the operative said.
Shortly after midnight on Oct. 20, within hours of the alleged incident, the operative recorded the video recounting what he says Schlapp did. A senior official on the Walker campaign confirmed that the operative shared the allegation with supervisors that morning. Campaign officials made a lawyer available to the operative and told him he did not have to chauffeur Schlapp again for a second day.
When Schlapp texted to say he was in the lobby ready to be driven, the operative replied with language suggested by campaign officials.
“I did want to say I was uncomfortable with what happened last night,” he texted, according to screen shots he shared with NBC News. “The campaign does have a driver who is available to get you to Macon and back to the airport.”
“Pls give me a call,” came the reply from Schlapp, according to the screen shots. Schlapp repeatedly called the operative, who did not answer, according to screen shots of the staffer’s phone log, including twice at 7:53 a.m. and once at 8:09 a.m. The operative shared Schlapp's phone number with NBC News to verify that the messages and phone calls came from him.
The lawsuit says Schlapp sent another text message to the operative shortly after noon that day.
“If you could see it in your heart to call me at end of day. I would appreciate it,” Schlapp texted, according to the suit. “If not I wish you luck on the campaign and hope you keep up the good work.”
The suit alleges that the Schlapps, in conjunction with allies, worked to discredit the operative after the first news story about the fondling claim was published. In one instance, Mercedes Schlapp sent a message to neighbors describing the accuser as a “troubled individual” and asserting that he had been fired from multiple jobs, including once for lying, according to the suit. The operative had not been fired from any job for lying, the suit says.