We’ve seen the pattern before—prominent conservative is subjected to an attack alleging some outlandish behavior or inappropriate assault.
American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp is the latest target of this style of media hit. The Daily Beast’s Ryan Sollenberger broke a story on Jan. 6 with obligatory clickbait headlines featuring “grabbed my crotch.”
A Herschel Walker campaign staffer is the anonymous source and purported victim of the assault.
There are at least five big problems with the story, some of which grow worse for Sollenberger by the day.
1. The Anonymous Source Who Didn’t Follow Through
Sollenberger’s story relies on one single source. There were no other witnesses. Fine.
But to bolster the source’s credibility, Sollenberger says the source for his story will unmask if Schlapp denied the accusation.
We are withholding the staffer’s name at his request, citing concerns of drawing attention to himself while embarking on his first weeks in a new job in Republican politics. He said he would come forward with his real name if Schlapp denied his claims.
Since then, Schlapp has denied it, and the accuser failed to unmask himself. Apparently, the threat to come forward after any Schlapp denial was a hollow one.
This raises the question of whether there is even a real person behind the accusation—or is it a Daily Beast fever dream? When an anonymous source threatens to come out, then doesn’t, it is reasonable to wonder if Sollenberger is the one actually being jobbed.
The Daily Beast would be wise to report the circumstances to their defamation liability carrier—quickly.
2. The Anonymous Source Produced Videos for Third Parties
Another problem with Sollenberger’s source is that the anonymous source spent a great deal of energy informing others about the allegation.
He then recorded a series of tearful video accounts detailing the evening, which he shared with The Daily Beast as well as with two people close to him, including the staffer’s wife.
In court, contemporaneous statements like the anonymous source purportedly made are inadmissible hearsay.
If someone has something to say, then say it out loud, in real-time, for everyone to hear. Someone’s story isn’t more credible just because he shot a pile of videos or wrote out the story in longhand. Unseen videos have even less weight, less than zero.
3. The Anonymous Source Was With the Herschel Walker Campaign
As a political observer for over three decades, I have never witnessed firewagon mayhem like the Herschel Walker for Senate campaign.
Chaos, ridiculous priorities, misstatements, and clown-car episodes characterized the campaign. Questions hung over the campaign like: Did the candidate really live in Texas? Is there any chance he really held a gun to a girlfriend’s head as she alleged? Is there another child to learn about?
Never before, hopefully never again.
That the anonymous source hails from inside that campaign that got most everything else wrong further undermines the reliability of the account.
4. Lockstep Amplification by the Smart Set Media
The lockstep response of the legacy left-of-center media is additional evidence that the Daily Beast piece was a hit more than it was news. I’ve seen the smart-set echo chamber up close.
Imagine a row of dozens of parrots. The Daily Beast squawks Sollenberger’s account and down the line, the parrots parrot.
People, Vanity Fair, Politico, and Rolling Stone. They could hardly hit “publish” fast enough.
When these sorts of grocery line outlets devour a story like they did, based on an unnamed source, there is more at play than meets the eye. This is especially so when each parrot sounds identical. Naturally, none of the parrots exhibit any skepticism about the story. That’s not what parrots do.
5. The Timing Is Suspect.
The events alleged by the anonymous source purportedly occurred in October of 2022, three months ago.
The unnamed source claimed he didn’t draw attention to his story earlier because he didn’t want to bring any undue negative attention to the Walker campaign, as if that were possible. So the anonymous source decided to come out now—wait for it—right as Schlapp was at a donor summit.
So the anonymous source waited months because he didn’t want to discredit a campaign that had already mastered the art of discrediting itself, and waited until Schlapp was meeting with ACU donors to drop the bomb. Surely just a coincidence.
We’ve grown accustomed to smears and jabs in political discourse. Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, James O’Keefe, and others know the playbook.
I can’t know what happened in Georgia. But the Daily Beast story has serious problems—problems that in the past a more credible media environment would have taken the time to ponder and digest. But not Ryan Sollenberger at the Daily Beast.
One last suggestion for whatever attorney gets involved in this spat someday: Ask Sollenberger if he gets paid by the click.