Senate nominee Herschel Walker repeatedly shared story resembling John Lewis encounter with former Klansman

Walker's tale of his encounter with an apologetic former member of the Ku Klux Klan happened the same year that he first shared a similar story about U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Republican nominee Herschel Walker’s campaign for U.S. Senate in Georgia has repeatedly been marred by falsehoods. To date, the retired football player has been caught lying about fathering a “secret” child, being a member of law enforcement, a claim that he graduated from college, and even his business practices.

Herschel Walker
Former Heisman Trophy winner and candidate for U.S. Senate Herschel Walker speaks to supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump during a March rally at the Banks County Dragway in Commerce, Georgia. (Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images)

A recent review by theGrio of past statements made by Walker during interviews between 2020 and 2021 reveals that Walker repeatedly shared several versions of a story about an encounter with a former member of the Ku Klux Klan that resembles one that has been publicly shared by the late former Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

On June 2, 2020, Walker appeared on “The Bigun Rick Show” as a guest and told viewers that an ex-Klansman approached him following a college football game while he was a freshman at the University of Georgia. Walker claimed the former white supremacist said to him, “Hershel, I was one of the biggest Klansmen here in the state of Georgia, but I wanted to tell you I’m sorry. You changed my way of thinking.” 

On April 8, 2021, the Senate nominee appeared on Wilmington Library’s YouTube channel and told a similar version of the encounter where the same former KKK member came to him after a game and said, “Son, I’m one of the largest Klansmen in the state of Georgia. I want to tell you, I’m sorry and he walked away.”

TheGrio has identified Walker as telling the Ku Klux Klan story at least on one other occasion during a podcast appearance on “The Glenn Beck Program” in June 2020.

FILE – Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for the state’s U.S. Senate seat, takes questions from the media after a campaign event July 20, 2022, in Athens, Ga. Senate GOP nominee Herschel Walker is making every effort to shape the contest as a referendum on what his campaign calls the “Biden-Warnock” agenda. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

Walker’s tale of his encounter with an apologetic former Klansman happened the same year that he first shared the personal story of Congressman Lewis, who said he forgave a Ku Klux Klan member who had beat him in the 1960s.

Andrew Aydin, former digital director and policy advisor to Congressman Lewis, told theGrio that in 2009, Elwin Wilson, a former Ku Klux Klan member apologized to Congressman Lewis for physically assaulting him while he served as a Freedom Rider in 1961 seeking to desegregate the south.

During the meeting between the two men, “The congressman just immediately said, ‘I forgive you’ and they hugged like brothers. That day built a very special relationship between them. They stayed in touch for years,” said Aydin.

“For the congressman, the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence was more than a tool or a tactic to him. It was a way of life,” he added.

FILE – Former Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 11, 2017. New York’s governor signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late civil rights activist who represented Georgia in the U.S. House, into law Monday, June 20, 2022, intended to prevent local officials from enacting rules that might suppress people’s voting rights because of their race. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

In 2011, both Wilson and Lewis appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” to share their story of how Lewis’ nonviolent actions toward Wilson changed his mind and inspired him to stop participating in racist acts.

Despite Walker’s alleged encounter with the KKK member, he does not make any mention of it in his book titled “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder” and the former NFL star only shared his encounter with the Klansman years after the nation learned about Lewis’ story.

According to Roll Call, in March 2010, Walker met with Lewis in his congressional office where the two discussed Lewis’ role during the civil rights era. Earlier in the day, Walker was joined by other athletes on Capitol Hill to represent the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association to lobby for laws that would promote physical fitness.

“It seems awfully strange for Herschel Walker to tell that story. If it really happened, why didn’t he mention it before? Why didn’t the press cover it,” Aydin questioned.

March 1965: American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery; among those pictured are, front row, politician and civil rights activist John Lewis (1940 – 2020), Reverend Ralph Abernathy (1926 – 1990), Ruth Harris Bunche (1906 – 1988), Nobel Prize-winning political scientist and diplomat Ralph Bunche (1904 – 1971), activist Hosea Williams (1926 – 2000 right carrying child). (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Walker received a lot of media coverage during his playing days and if something like that happened the press in Georgia would have almost certainly written about it. It seems more than possible that Walker is making it up,” he added.

The Walker campaign did not immediately respond to theGrio’s request for comment on his story about the former Klansman.

Despite the falsehoods Walker has touted in the past, political strategist Shermichael Singleton told theGrio that “Georgia is still a red state.” Therefore, Walker, he said, still has a chance of becoming Georgia’s next U.S. senator.

He continued, ”Georgia is teetering towards purple and it will probably eventually get there in a few more election cycles, but it’s not there yet … it’s going to be close. It will be a very, very close race.”

A new poll shows that Walker’s Democratic opponent, Senator Raphael Warnock, is in a six-point lead against his Republican challenger. But Singleton warns that the current economic issues in Georgia and across the country could smell trouble for an incumbent Democrat in a traditionally red state.

“The state of the economy is bad enough where voters typically will always blame the party in power when they say the economy is failing and that just happens to be Democrats. So, it’s an uphill battle for the senator,” he said. 

FILE – Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, July 26, 2022. Georgia voters will see at least one fall debate between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock on Tuesday evening accepted Walker’s proposal for an Oct. 14 debate in Savannah. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Conservative pundit William Armstrong told theGrio that if voters elect Walker it would dramatically shift the political landscape of the U.S. Senate.

“The voters certainly have people who are complete opposites to choose from in what could be a very critical election in Georgia that could tilt the balance of the United States Senate. So, there’s much at stake, and the voters have a choice to make,” said Armstrong.

“I think we should trust the voters to make the right decision,” he added. 

Armstrong said that Walker’s false claims are not extraordinary and that sharing conflicting information has become typical for those seeking elected office. 

“Unfortunately, we often see [it] on both sides of the fence with elected officials and those seeking to be elected. It’s one of the reasons why many voters choose not to go to the polls because they see the contradictions and then what they’re left with. They have to vote the lesser of the choices. And that’s unfortunate for our electoral system,” he said.

Singleton said that it likely doesn’t matter what Walker says, as Republicans will continue to support his run for Senate.

Voters don’t care if he hasn’t told the truth or maybe bent the truth or didn’t tell a complete truth, or maybe said something on camera in an interview that seemed a bit off or crazy,” he said.

He added that Walker could also appeal to independent voters which could be his key to winning the Senate race. 

They’re looking at crime, they’re looking at the economy, so more than likely they’ll vote for Herschel Walker because he stated he would support measures to address the crime issues of police with more funding,” he said.

Singleton told theGrio that Walker is not the only member of the Republican Party who falsifies information or promotes controversial statements. 

Marjorie Taylor Greene
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks at an America First Rally also attended by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on May 27, 2021 in Dalton, Georgia. The two Republicans, among the most outspoken supporters of former President Donald Trump, are co-hosting a cross-country series of rallies. ​(Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

“Marjorie Taylor Greene or Tim Ryan or Dr. Oz. They’re in the lead, some of them. Why? When they stated all types of bizarre things, at the end of the day, voters, particularly Republican ones — especially persons backed by Trump — they do not care,” he said.

Singleton said that if Warnock wants a chance at winning the election he needs to “appeal to swing voters, suburbanites, moderate-leaning Republicans and he needs to talk about the economy.” 

Last week, Warnock and Walker agreed to go toe to toe in a Senate debate slated for Oct. 14 in Savannah, Georgia.

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