Former Herschel Walker aide accuses a leading conservative of sexual harassment

Credit: Stephen M. Dowell/TNS

Credit: Stephen M. Dowell/TNS

A former aide to U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s campaign has accused a prominent conservative advocate of sexually groping him after a campaign stop in October.

The aide said Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, fondled him as he drove Schlapp from a late-night stop at Manuel’s Tavern to his hotel near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“He reached over and fondled my crotch for about 5 seconds,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s to my shame that I didn’t say anything. I wish I had said, ‘What the hell — stop!’ ”

The AJC does not identify victims of sexual assault. The aide said he is sharing his story, which was first reported by The Daily Beast, to expose what he described as predatory behavior by Schlapp and ensure he faces accountability.

The aide has not reported the incident to police. However, he informed senior leaders of the Walker campaign immediately after the alleged incident, the campaign confirmed to the AJC. The aide decided to wait until after the campaign was over to share his story.

Schlapp, who is married to GOP consultant Mercedes Schlapp, has denied “any improper behavior” through his attorney Charlie Spies.

The American Conservative Union issued a statement from two of its leaders saying they “stand squarely behind Matt Schlapp” and have full confidence in his leadership.

“We know Matt Schlapp’s heart and his character,” said the statement from the group, which organizes the influential annual CPAC conference, a mainstay on the political calendar. “And we believe this latest attempt at character assassination is false.”

A senior staffer for Walker said the campaign ensured that the aide had no more contact with Schlapp after the alleged incident and connected him with the campaign’s lawyer and other support.

“We found the allegation credible, and given the seriousness of the allegation, we wanted to make sure it was handled appropriately,” the Walker official said.

The incident allegedly took place on Oct. 19 as Walker was traveling the state to promote his unsuccessful challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. The aide, a midlevel staffer, 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. The aide said he accepted the request because “I figured it would be a good chance to network. I quickly realized it wasn’t about that.”

He described Schlapp’s behavior at the restaurant as “weird” but not menacing. He wanted to head to a livelier bar, so the aide suggested 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 started touching his. At one point, Schlapp realized the aide was carrying a firearm. He asked what type it was, and the aide said it was a Sig Sauer — a popular gun brand.

“He told me he didn’t know what that was, which surprised me,” the aide said. “He also kept asking me, ‘Do you have a problem looking at me?’ ”

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,” the aide said. “He then asked me to go up to his room, and I said no.”

The aide said he called two friends to let them know what happened and, the next day, informed other Walker staffers. He also recorded a video on Oct. 20 that he didn’t post publicly but was confirmed by the AJC.

“To my shame, I did not say ‘no’ or ‘stop,’ ” the aide said in the video. “God knows it was not a wanted advance.”

In a text message shared with the AJC, the aide told Schlapp the next morning that he was “uncomfortable with what happened last night” and that another staffer would drive him that day.

Schlapp responded: “If you could see it in your heart to call me at the end of the day. I would appreciate it. If not I wish you luck on the campaign and hope you keep up the good work.”

The aide said he was exploring his legal options but decided to come forward to speak out against what he describes as menacing behavior.

“He needs to be held accountable.”