It’s hard to overstate the risk Georgia Republicans took when they nominated Herschel Walker as the party’s nominee against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
The events of the last few days illustrate just how problematic Walker is as a candidate.
First came a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that carried this headline: “Herschel Walker claimed to be in law enforcement when he wasn’t.” Here’s the key bit from that piece:
“Walker’s campaign said he majored in criminal justice during his time at the University of Georgia and was an honorary deputy in Cobb County along with three other Georgia counties. (They did not specify which ones.)
“The Cobb County Police Department said they have no record of involvement with Walker. The Cobb sheriff’s office could not immediately say if he was an honorary deputy or not.”
And Walker said this in 2019: “I worked for law enforcement, y’all didn’t know that either? I spent time at Quantico at the FBI training school. Y’all didn’t know I was an agent?”
Asked for comment by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Walker’s office provided Associated Press stories from 1989 that suggest Walker had spent a week at Quantico as he was retiring from pro football. “They had an obstacle course and you shoot at targets to protect your partner as you advanced up the course,” he told the AP at the time. “I had fun. There were about 200 recruits there.”
Of course, spending a week at Quantico is not the same thing as training to be an FBI agent. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes: “Special Agent training requires a minimum of 20 weeks at Quantico.”
Then late Tuesday, the Walker campaign confirmed a Daily Beast report that he has a second son with a woman who was not his wife. Walker was ordered to pay child support starting in 2014, according to the report. Walker also has another son, Christian, about whom he speaks frequently on the campaign trail.
As CNN noted Wednesday:
“Walker has publicly criticized absentee fathers, particularly in Black families.
“And I want to apologize to the African American community, because the fatherless home is a major, major problem,’ Walker told conservative activist Charlie Kirk in a 2020 interview. In another interview that year with conservative media personalities Diamond and Silk, Walker said that men who have ‘a child with a woman, even if you have to leave that woman … you don’t leave the child.’”
Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise told CNN: “Herschel had a child years ago when he wasn’t married. He’s supported the child and continues to do so. He’s proud of his children. To suggest that Herschel is ‘hiding’ the child because he hasn’t used him in his political campaign is offensive and absurd.”
In its statement, Walker’s campaign also raised the issue of Warnock’s child support dispute with his ex-wife, who is suing to change the conditions of Warnock’s payments.
For Walker, these two stories are only the latest in a series of controversies he has faced since winning the Georgia Republican Senate nomination last month.
Days after the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Walker was asked about whether the tragedy had changed his mind on gun and gun control. Here’s how he responded:
“Cain killed Abel and that’s a problem that we have. What we need to do is look into how we can stop those things. You know, you talked about doing a disinformation – what about getting a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at their social media. What about doing that? Looking into things like that and we can stop that that way. But yet they want to just continue to talk about taking away your constitutional rights. And I think there’s more things we need to look into. This has been happening for years and the way we stop it is putting money into the mental health field, by putting money into other departments rather than departments that want to take away your rights.”
Warnock’s campaign also released an ad earlier this month that is entirely just Walker talking about Covid-19. Here’s what Walker said:
“Right now, you know what, I’m gonna say something I probably shouldn’t. Do you know right now, I have something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from Covid as you walk through this dry mist. As you walk through the door, it will kill any Covid on your body. When you leave, it will kill the virus as you leave. This here product – they don’t want to talk about that. They don’t want to hear about that.”
Walker made those comments during an appearance on conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s podcast in August 2020. It wasn’t clear exactly what Walker is referring to, as it could be dangerous for a person to walk through a disinfecting spray or mist that kills the coronavirus.
How much does all – or any – of this matter? Walker, after all, coasted to the Republican Senate nomination largely on the strength of his fame as a running back for the University of Georgia and later NFL career, as well as an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Will Walker be judged in the same way as another celebrity who ran for office, Trump? As in, will voters simply overlook all of these exaggerations because they are drawn to Walker’s fame?
The Walker campaign – and national Republicans – better hope so. Otherwise, Walker’s chances of flipping the Georgia Senate seat are going down by the day.