Following a monthlong absence from the network's on-air programming, conservative luminaries Matt and Mercedes Schlapp have found safe harbors with rival right-wing media outlets. The Schlapps had been frequent guests on Fox News and Fox Business until last month’s report of sexual assault.
Fox News and Fox Business have continued to leave frequent guests Matt and Mercedes Schlapp off their programming since a January 5 report that a Republican campaign staffer assigned as Matt’s driver in October said Matt had sexually assaulted him.
According to Media Matters’ internal database of cable news guest appearances, Matt appeared on Fox News’ weekday programs at least 29 times in 2022, and Mercedes appeared at least 56 times. Fox quietly pulled the Schlapps off-air after several appearances on the Fox channels in early January, and the network never mentioned the report or the subsequent lawsuit against the Schlapps filed by the staffer. During their hiatus from Fox, both Matt and Mercedes have instead appeared on Fox’s right-wing media rivals, such as Newsmax.
Matt is the chair of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference. Fox’s relationship with the Schlapps runs deeper than just hosting them dozens of times last year: Fox Nation has sponsored every stateside CPAC since 2019, one year after the streaming network launched. In 2021, Fox Nation was a “Featuring Sponsor” at the event, paying at least $250,000, and it was a top sponsor again in 2022. Even before Fox Nation started sponsoring the event, Fox News hosts often spoke at CPAC: Jeanine Pirro in 2017, Sean Hannity in 2015, and Tucker Carlson in 2013.
It remains to be seen whether Fox will continue to support CPAC while the network continues to keep the Schlapps off its programming and ignores the report of sexual assault by Matt, aside from one story on FoxNews.com weeks ago. But at least one other right-wing media outlet, Newsmax, is welcoming the Schlapps, even as it too ignores this story. (Republican lawmakers are reportedly ignoring it as well.) Newsmax gave the Schlapps free rein to comment on GOP politics without asking them to address the report about Matt.
Newsmax provided a safe space for both Matt and Mercedes Schlapp on January 27, interviewing them on separate programs and failing to bring up the lawsuit filed against both of them or the sexual assault report. Instead, Mercedes was asked for her opinion about the Paul Pelosi video, a Biden judicial nomination, and DirecTV’s supposed “deplatforming” of Newsmax. Matt was asked about Trump's recent culture war attacks and the reelection of Ronna McDaniel as the Republican National Committee chair.
Matt was also interviewed on January 27 and again on February 2 by right-wing podcaster Steve Bannon, Trump’s disgraced former strategic adviser. In the most recent appearance on Bannon’s show, Matt promised that the 2023 CPAC will be “a little bit Hungarian” in its treatment of unfriendly media outlets, possibly to avoid reporters asking difficult questions about him. Bannon did not bring up the report of sexual assault during either of these appearances.
Mercedes also had a safe space during her January 27 appearance on WMAL’s O’Connor & Company. While neither the lawsuit nor the allegation against Matt were mentioned during the interview, co-host Larry O’Connor closed it by saying to Mercedes: “I know you've been through hell the last couple of weeks” and offering his support.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and Newsmax for the term “Schlapp” from January 5, 2023, when a Herschel Walker staffer first reported that Matt Schlapp had groped him, through February 5, 2023.
We included segments, which we defined as instances when the report of groping was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the report. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the groping report with one another.
We also reviewed guest appearances by Matt or Mercedes Schlapp for whether Fox or Newsmax personalities asked about the report or the lawsuit.