Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has been dominated by controversy

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Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker faced a series of controversies this week – including that he has two sons and a daughter from different women he hasn’t spoken about publicly – that threaten to unravel his larger-than-life football star image among state voters.

Walker, a Republican backed by former President Donald Trump, is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Reverend Raphael G. Warnock in one of the nation’s most important races that could determine the balance of power in the Senate. Georgia, which President Biden won by less than half a percentage point, still leans Republican and could be an easy recovery for the party in a tough year for Democrats.

But Walker, a crass politician with an unverified background, could struggle in vote-rich areas like suburban Atlanta if enough swing voters are put off by inconsistencies in his professional and personal background, some experts say. Others say his massive stardom in the state — he was an American running back and a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Georgia — gives him more leeway to make mistakes.

Walker won the Republican nomination last month with more than 68% of the vote.

“People who voted for him because he was famous will not be swayed or deterred by that. I think people will rationalize their tribalism,” said Emory University professor Andra Gillespie. “It raises the question of whether more moderate suburban voters will resist these kinds of revelations.”

This week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution debunked Walker’s previous claims that he worked in law enforcement and was an FBI agent. Two days later, the Daily Beast reported that Walker had a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock son whom he had not spoken about publicly. Then on Thursday, the left-leaning news site reported that Walker had another 13-year-old son by another woman as well as an adult daughter he fathered while a college student. Walker spoke on the campaign trail about his close relationship with another son, Christian, 22.

Walker, who in the past has berated absentee black fathers, confirmed the Daily Beast reports and said he never hid his other children.

“I have four children. Three sons and a daughter. They are not ‘undisclosed’ – they are my children,” Walker said in a statement sent to The Washington Post. “To say that I hide my children because I don’t tell reporters about them to win a campaign? is outrageous I can handle the heat, it’s politics – but leave my kids alone.

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Walker also noted that when Trump nominated him to the Presidential Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition in 2018, he listed all four children on a background form.

Walker harshly criticized absentee black fathers, once calling it a “major, major problem.”

“The father leaves in the Black family. He leaves the boys alone to be raised by their mothers,” he said in a 2021 interview. “If you have a child with a woman, even if you have to leave that woman – even if you have to leave this woman – you are not leaving this child.”

Several years earlier, a woman had asked Walker to prove his paternity and pay child support. The two had a relationship between 2008 and 2011, according to a 2013 petition from New York attorney Andres Alonso. The petition stated that the two separated approximately eight months before the child was born on May 31, 2012 in New York County. More than a year later, Walker was ordered to pay child support for his then 2-year-old son.

News of Walker’s three other children came days after his eldest son, Christian, posted a TikTok video complaining about absentee fathers and men who have children with multiple women. “Go home, raise your children and take care of the women you knock up!” Can you control your thing for three seconds? Christian Walker said in the video. He frequently posts videos on social media offering colorful commentary on a range of topics.

Unlike Walker’s other children, Christian was present in his father’s public life. In December 2021, it posted a video on Twitter de Mar a Lago, writing, “I had the honor of introducing my dad, @HerschelWalker, last night at Mar a Lago. I had to preach about how authoritarian and HORRIFIC the democrats are, then I kissed a future senator. Perfect night.”

Since Walker became a candidate, a long list of blunders and inaccuracies have surfaced, including misrepresentations about his education and alleged history of working for law enforcement. He questioned evolution by asking, “Why are there still apes?” Think about it.” He once promoted a “haze” that, if someone walked through, “would kill any covid on your body.”

Political strategists argue that for hard-line Republicans, questions about Walkers’ out-of-wedlock children and evidence of tampering with his record won’t have an impact. Much like how many Republicans in 2016 dismissed Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape bragging about sexually assaulting women as mere ‘locker room talk’, party leaders and voters will excuse a famous athlete to have children by more than one woman.

Walker is scheduled to speak at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition conference of evangelical Christians on Saturday.

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“He’s not going to lose the support of hard-line Republicans, and he needs to speak to independents every day – who swung to Warnock last time around – with a simple, repetitive message: ‘I’ll vote well and I’m a choice for the change on inflation, crime and gas prices,” said Brian Robinson, a Georgia GOP operative.

Warnock’s campaign did not respond to request for comment about his children. The senator is also facing a custody dispute with his ex-wife, who is suing him to have child support “recalculated” based on his increased income since joining the Senate.

Heath Garrett, another Republican in-state strategist, said Walker should be transparent and use her history and shortcomings as a way to relate to everyday voters.

“In the stories of Herschel Walker there are risks and opportunities and I think he was underestimated. I think he was marginalized at many times and times in his life, and he has always overcame challenges and turned those struggles into opportunities,” he said. “Voters are forgiving as long as they know and feel sincerity.”

Matt Prestbury is the founder of the Black Fathers Foundation in Atlanta, which aims to end the stigma of the absent black father and help fathers who want to be there for their children but are struggling. His work is apolitical, and he declined to comment specifically on Walker, but said that in general it is frustrating when black men disparage black fathers and may not live up to those ideals themselves.

“It’s hurtful when someone chastises us and addresses us as black men and says, ‘That’s what you’re not doing,’ and it makes it even worse if they’re being hypocrites. “, said Prestbury. “I want every black man in the world to be actively involved in the lives of his children, and it saddens me when I see someone who doesn’t.”

Timothy Bella and Annie Linskey contributed to this report.


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