How low can the Herschel Walker campaign go?
OPINION: Walker's Senate run has been plagued by a litany of gaffes and missteps, but will his latest scandal finally turn off Republican voters?
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
It’s another day, so naturally, there is another Herschel Walker scandal. Since he launched his improbable candidacy for the U.S. Senate this year, he has been caught lying about everything from COVID to his professional experience to how many children he has.
And now the Daily Beast is reporting yet another bombshell, alleging that in 2009, Walker urged his then-girlfriend to get an abortion and reimbursed her for the procedure.
This, of course, should not be a scandal. If true, he and his then-partner had every right and perhaps every reason to pursue an abortion, and one could argue it was almost chivalrous of the ex-NFL star to foot the bill. But the irony is that Walker has been running a virulently socially conservative campaign, chastizing others for their family-planning decisions and calling for a total ban on all abortions in the United States with no exceptions for atrocities like rape or incest, as well as the health of the mother.
In any previous era, certainly before 2016, a story like this—which Walker has vehemently denied—would spell doom for any candidate regardless of party. Voters usually condemned this kind of high-profile hypocrisy—and this story is already coming on the heels of numerous credible reports detailing a horrifying history of alleged domestic violence and erratic behavior on Walker’s part, already calling his character, if not his mental stability, into serious question.
His own 23-year-old son has taken to Twitter to condemn his father. Christian Walker, an outspoken conservative in his own right, who had previously supported his father’s Senate run, has declared he’s “done” with his father after the allegations reported by the Daily Beast.
“You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence,” he tweeted, only raising more questions about Walker’s checkered past.
And yet, despite all of this, Walker—a man who has been accused of holding his ex-wife hostage at gunpoint, a man who had refused to debate his Democratic opponent until recently, a man who has demonstrated no coherence whatsoever when it comes to national or state-level issues—has a very good chance of winning the election the U.S. Senate this November.
If anything, his reaction to the Daily Beast story may win him more support from his GOP base. Taking a page right out of the Donald Trump playbook, Walker played the victim—allegedly that the story was part of some kind of Democratic plot and threatening to sue the Daily Beast for libel.
It will be an uphill legal battle—should he follow through with it, which I doubt he will—because the Daily Beast has receipts. While the woman who’s come forward has sought to shield her identity, she did provide the publication with a “$575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a ‘get well’ card from Walker, and a bank deposit receipt that included an image of a signed $700 personal check from Walker.”
But what is “evidence” to a Republican voter these days? There is no evidence that there was substantial fraud in the 2020 election, and yet, nearly two years later, an overwhelming majority of Republicans insist there was.
Call it cynical or clever or both, but Republicans have not only managed to convince their voters that any election they didn’t win is legitimate, but they also have argued that any story that paints them in an unflattering light is “fake news.”
The Herschel Walker campaign itself could be held up as a case study in gaslighting. Republicans who spent years denigrating the experience of Black candidates who were eminently qualified, from Barack Obama to Stacey Abrams, have all fallen in line behind a legendary running back who’s never shown an interest or ability when it comes to governing and policy.
His incoherent ramblings about “bad air” flowing from China and the theory of evolution are either ignored or accepted by people who know better like Mitch McConnell because ultimately it’s more important to them that a crucial Senate seat is held by someone who calls themselves a Republican and votes the way they want them to.
There is no doubt Walker would do that. He managed to easily win the GOP nomination for Senate in Georgia after doing little more than demonstrating that he would be the most devoted to Donald Trump of any of the candidates running. There are some who have speculated that Walker’s promotion from convention guest speaker to U.S. senatorial prospect was a deliberate attempt to siphon off Black voters from incumbent Democratic Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, who also happens to be African American, but if that was part of the calculation, it isn’t paying off.
Warnock, who has proven himself to be an effective senator—helping to pass historic reductions in the cost of insulin—and one of the Democratic Party’s most charismatic orators, maintains the support of the overwhelming majority of Black voters across the state of Georgia, and so Walker’s best hope for victory is the conservative white voters of the state.
So far, the Republican Party and its backers have now evinced, at least publicly, any qualms about how Walker has comported himself not just in his past but over the last few months on the campaign trail. If it didn’t bother them that Walker blamed the tragic Uvalde, Texas, high school shooting on “young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at social media” will this Daily Beast story phase them?
This will be a true test of whether their supposed deeply held convictions on the issue of abortion are really that deeply held at all. Republican supporters may not be willing to vote for Warnock, who is unapologetically pro-choice, but will they leave Walker’s box blank to make a statement that is at least consistent with the national party’s embrace of criminalizing abortion?
Only time will tell. But nothing whatsoever can change the fact that Herschel Walker’s candidacy has been one of the biggest hot messes in recent political history.
Adam Howard is a senior associate producer for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” and a producer on the “Full Release with Samantha Bee” podcast. He has written about pop culture, sports and politics for The Daily Beast, Playboy, and NBC News and has recently curated an exhibition of the history of blaxploitation for the Poster House museum in New York City.
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