Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, has denied “any improper behavior,” according to a statement from his lawyer to the Daily Beast, which first reported on the allegations earlier this month.
“This anonymous complaint demonstrates the accuser’s real agenda, working in concert with Daily Beast to attack and harm the Schlapp family,” Schlapp’s attorney, Charlie Spies, said in a statement that Schlapp tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “The complaint is false, and the Schlapp family is suffering unbearable pain and stress due to the false allegation from an anonymous individual.”
Schlapp and his wife, who is also named in the complaint, are “assessing counter-lawsuit options,” the statement added.
According to the complaint, Schlapp and the staffer exchanged phone numbers upon their return to Atlanta because the staffer had also been assigned to drive Schlapp to another Walker campaign event in Macon, Ga., the following morning.
Schlapp invited the staffer for a drink, which the staffer said he accepted because Schlapp — chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — “is a very prominent and well-connected person in conservative politics” and he was eager to make a connection that might further his career, according to the complaint.
The two met at the Capital Grille in Atlanta, where they made small talk about sports, and then went to another bar, Manuel’s Tavern, after Schlapp’s suggestion that they go somewhere more lively, the complaint stated.
“At Manuel’s Tavern, 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,” the complaint stated. “Mr. Schlapp also encouraged Mr. Doe to have more drinks, despite the fact that Mr. Doe was driving. Mr. Schlapp noticed Mr. Doe’s discomfort, and ask[ed] Mr. Doe why he would not look at him.”
To “escape the situation,” the staffer offered to drive Schlapp back to his hotel, citing their need to depart early the next morning for Macon, according to the complaint.
On the drive back, Schlapp placed his hand on the staffer’s leg without his consent and then “began aggressively fondling Mr. Doe’s genital area in a sustained fashion,” the complaint stated. “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.”
Schlapp is among the most influential figures in right-wing politics. He formerly served as the White House director of political affairs under President George W. Bush and later became one of President Donald Trump’s strongest allies.
The complaint said the staffer returned, alone, to his Atlanta home “shocked, mortified, horrified, and devastated” by what had transpired, and that he informed “several trusted persons” and recorded a video recounting what had occurred. The next morning, Oct. 20, the staffer told senior officials with the Walker campaign what had happened, and they arranged for someone else to drive Schlapp to Macon, according to the complaint.
The complaint included screenshots of purported text messages between the staffer and Schlapp, including one in which the staffer tells Schlapp he “was uncomfortable with what happened last night” and another in which Schlapp asks the staffer if he “could see it in your heart to call me at end of day,” allegedly sent after the staffer refused to answer several of Schlapp’s calls and texts.
The complaint also names Schlapp’s wife, Mercedes Schlapp, and accuses the couple of defamation and conspiracy “through the use of lawyers and hired guns” after the Daily Beast reported on the allegations.
The complaint includes a screenshot of a text Mercedes Schlapp allegedly sent to a neighborhood group chat on Jan. 7, the day after the Daily Beast published its initial story, saying they had “learned the accuser is a troubled individual” who had “been fired from multiple jobs including one firing for lying and lying on his résumé.” The staffer said in the complaint he has never been fired for lying or lying on his résumé.
The staffer is seeking $9.4 million in damages, according to the complaint.
“Our client takes no joy in filing this lawsuit,” the staffer’s attorney, Timothy Hyland, said in a statement Tuesday. “However, Mr. Schlapp has had ample time to accept responsibility and apologize for his despicable actions. But instead of doing the right thing, Mr. Schlapp, Ms. Schlapp, and their friends and associates embarked on a ridiculous, spurious, and defamatory attempt to smear the reputation of Mr. Schlapp’s victim.”
Mercedes Schlapp was Trump’s White House director of strategic communications and worked on his 2020 reelection campaign. The Schlapps, who founded the lobbying and political consulting firm Cove Strategies in 2009, said they “decided to double down” on supporting Trump even after the “Access Hollywood” tape of him bragging about groping women dropped just before the 2016 presidential election. In the early months of the Trump administration, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described the Schlapps as “a really fun new power couple.”
The two promoted Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election. They have also continued to support Trump and Trump-backed candidates, including leading up to November’s midterm elections, when they hosted fundraisers for Republican Senate candidates Blake Masters, Mehmet Oz and Adam Laxalt — all of whom would go on to lose their races to Democrats.
Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.