A former Herschel Walker aide who accused the leader of the Conservative Political Action Conference of “aggressively fondling” him on the campaign trail in Georgia disclosed his identity after a judge required him to drop his anonymity to go forward with a lawsuit.
The staffer is Carlton Huffman, a North Carolina resident and longtime Republican operative who worked as a staffer last year for Walker’s failed U.S. Senate bid.
Huffman cited privacy concerns and fear of retaliation when he shielded his identity in a January civil lawsuit filed in January against Matt Schlapp, who leads one of the nation’s most influential conservative groups.
But he agreed to use his real name in the lawsuit, which seeks more than $9 million in damages, after a Virginia judge said he must disclose his identity for the complaint to proceed.
Huffman detailed the allegations in a January interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before the filing. This week, he also shared with the AJC a series of videos detailing his allegations that he said he filmed shortly after he and Schlapp parted ways.
Schlapp has denied the accusations, and a spokesman accused Huffman of trying to “litigate this in the media while hiding behind anonymity to avoid scrutiny of his unsavory past, troubled work history and issues with honesty.”
“We are confident that when his full record is brought to light in a court of law, we will prevail,” said the spokesman, Mark Corallo.
The AJC typically grants anonymity to alleged victims of sexual assault, but Huffman has disclosed his identity because he’s agreed to make it public to advance his lawsuit. He said this week that he was “moving forward” with the case.
Schlapp heads the American Conservative Union, which hosted its annual Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month. The closely watched event featured speeches from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, former President Donald Trump and several potential 2024 hopefuls.
In the lawsuit, Huffman accused Schlapp of fondling his “genital area in a sustained fashion” on Oct. 19 as he drove Schlapp from a late-night stop at Manuel’s Tavern to his hotel near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
“It’s to my shame that I didn’t say anything,” Huffman previously told the AJC. “I wish I had said, ‘What the hell — stop!’ "
Huffman informed leaders of the Walker campaign immediately after the alleged incident, the campaign confirmed to the AJC. A senior Walker staffer said the campaign ensured Huffman had no more contact with Schlapp and connected him with the campaign’s lawyer and other support.
Huffman said the incident took place as Walker was traveling the state to promote his unsuccessful challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. Huffman, 39, was tasked with driving Schlapp from an event in the Middle Georgia town of Perry.
After he dropped Schlapp at the hotel, he received a text inviting him for drinks that night at the Capital Grille in Buckhead. He described Schlapp’s behavior at the restaurant as “weird” but not menacing.
Schlapp wanted to head to a livelier bar, Huffman said, so they drove to Manuel’s Tavern, a Midtown Atlanta watering hole known as a popular haunt for Democratic politicos.
He said around 10 p.m. the outing turned more uncomfortable, as Schlapp’s leg “was in almost constant contact” with his leg, according to the complaint. Schlapp also repeatedly asked the aide why he wouldn’t look at him, the lawsuit said.
On the drive back to Schlapp’s hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn near the airport, the aide said Schlapp reached over and fondled his crotch for at least 5 seconds.
“I think I mentally blocked out the look on his face at first,” Huffman said. “He then asked me to go up to his room, and I said no.”
Huffman said he called two friends to let them know what happened, and the next day, he informed other Walker staffers. He shared with the AJC texts he said were between him and Schlapp along with three videos he recorded on Oct. 20.
“This is probably one of the most ashamed posts that I’ve ever had to send,” Huffman said in one of the videos, in which he broke down as he questioned why he didn’t demand that Schlapp stop touching him.
Saying he made the video to share with someone he trusted to prove his allegations, Huffman then described Schlapp fondling him. “And I’m there saying, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ”
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