CNN’s Chris Cuomo clashed with American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Matt Schlapp on Friday in heated exchanges about unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Cuomo was speaking to Schlapp about a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in Dallas, Texas. The ACU organizes CPAC and former President Donald Trump will deliver a speech there on Sunday. Their conversation lasted around 12 minutes.
Cuomo asked why CPAC would be focusing on voter fraud in 2020. Schlapp argued that there had been fraud in the last presidential election, saying that signatures on mail-in ballots had not been verified in Georgia and in Clark County, Nevada. Trump had made these claims in late 2020 and fact-checkers debunked them.
Cuomo pushed back against Schlapp’s claims about voter fraud and the conversation quickly became combative.
“To say there was fraud doesn’t mean – even if you are right, OK, on your own assertion – you didn’t check all the boxes of what you were supposed to do,” Cuomo said.
“I’m not saying you’re right and no court has said you are right. And all of the suggestions that you would prove this over time have never been met. But even if that’s the case, that’s not fraud. And it doesn’t mean that the election was stolen. And yet, you have people at CPAC chanting, ‘Trump won. The election was rigged.’ Do you really believe that? That Trump won?”
“I believe that what we should do in America is follow the rules on voting,” Schlapp said.
“And what the secretary of state did in the state of Georgia and he’s a Republican – not my kind of Republican – but he signed an illegal consent decree to not check and verify the signatures of people who voted by the mail as you know because of the coronavirus. We had historic levels of mailed-in voting.”
That consent decree, signed in March 2020, did not prevent signature verification of mail-in ballots, according to an Associated Press (AP) fact check in November of that year.
Cuomo replied: “But you don’t know that there was fraud.”
“Yes, I do. Because now, you’re using the word fraud…” Schlapp said.
“No, you’re using the word fraud. And CPAC is using the word fraud. Not me. I’m using the word you’re using,” Cuomo cut in.
“Let me use the words,” Schlapp replied. “I’m speaking. I’m speaking. Why don’t you let me use words? What I’m trying to tell you is that if you don’t verify the signatures on mailed-in ballots, especially as you had in some cases double the number of mailed-in ballots, you are inviting fraud and those ballots could be illegal votes.”
The two men then had a back and forth, frequently talking over each other as Schlapp claimed there had been fraud and Cuomo dismissed that claim.
Eventually, Cuomo said: “I don’t understand why you are banking your conservative platform on this. You really believe that’s the way to win the midterms and maybe the next presidency is by trying to create misgivings about the democracy?”
Schlapp denied that that was what CPAC was focusing on and highlighted the fact its’ theme is “America Uncanceled.” Their exchange went on, however.
“The facts aren’t in your favor,” Cuomo said. “What I don’t get is why are you making a case to the American people that you know is based on a lie. Why are you making CPAC about the big lie and not all the other things you could argue?”
Schlapp defended CPAC again and mentioned COVID-19 restrictions, leading to another clash with Cuomo. The ACU chairman went on to say he wasn’t welcome on CNN, while Cuomo said he was “welcome” on the network.
Newsweek has asked the American Conservative Union for comment.