(Joshua Paladino, Headline USA) Two likely presidential candidates and other high-ranking Republicans will not attend CPAC in Maryland next week after a male Herschel Walker staffer accused American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp of sexual assault, NBC News reported.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence both decided not to attend CPAC, which the ACU has hosted since 1974, though they did not publicly cite the accusation against Schlapp as their reason for missing it.
Former President Donald Trump, and the leading contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, will speak at CPAC on Saturday.
The former Walker staffer, who remains anonymous in the lawsuit, sued Schlapp for sexual battery and for disparaging his character, and he seeks a $9.4 million settlement. The court filing gives details about the case in fewer than 20 pages.
Schlapp denied the allegations.
“The Schlapp family is suffering unbearable pain and stress due to the false allegation from an anonymous individual,” said lawyer Charlie Spies. “No family should ever go through this and the Schlapps and their legal team are assessing counter-lawsuit options.”
Other prominent Republicans will skip CPAC, too, including: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
DeSantis will attend fundraisers in California and Texas instead of speaking at CPAC.
An anonymous source who claimed to have knowledge about Pence’s decision to skip the event said that there has “been a distance between the two entities for a few years now… Principles and values no longer align.”
The lawsuit against Schlapp did not make the decision for these Republicans, but it gave them an additional reason to avoid CPAC.
The same person close to Pence said Republicans “are increasing their distance because of that, because of those allegations.”
Another anonymous Republican operative relayed the general tone of Republicans: “Someone said to me, ‘We all wanted an excuse not to go, and Schlapp gave it to us,’” the operative said.