Briefing

Does a bombshell abortion report spell defeat for Herschel Walker?

He's currently trailing his Democratic opponent by roughly five points

In September 2009, Herschel Walker — the former college and professional football star and now Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia — paid for his girlfriend to have an abortion, The Daily Beast reported Monday. Publicly, Walker is anti-abortion and has advocated for a national ban with no exceptions.

The woman said that though they are no longer dating, she remains in contact with Walker, and told the Daily Beast she came forward to discuss the abortion because "I just can't with the hypocrisy anymore. We all deserve better." She provided the Daily Beast with a $575 receipt from an abortion clinic; a bank deposit receipt showing the image of a $700 check from Walker; and a "get well" card signed by Walker. The woman said Walker encouraged her to get the abortion because it was "not the right time" for him to have a child, and she agreed. Robert Ingram, a lawyer for Walker and his campaign, denied the report, calling it a "false story." After its publication, Walker released a statement decrying the article as a "flat-out lie," and said he planned to sue the Daily Beast for "this defamatory lie." During an interview Wednesday morning, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked Walker if he had figured out the woman's identity, to which he responded, "Not at all." 

On Wednesday night, there was yet another twist: the Daily Beast published a follow-up article revealing the woman is also the mother of one of Walker's three previously unreported children. Walker and his first wife share a son, 23-year-old Christian, but it wasn't publicly known until earlier this year that Walker is also the father of a 10-year-old son, a 13-year-old son, and an adult daughter born when he was in college.

Christian is a conservative social media influencer and has been publicly supportive of his father; however, after the abortion report, Christian tweeted, "I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us. 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 six times in six months running from your violence." Christian added that he doesn't "care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability," but his father "lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples' lives. How dare you."

Walker will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in November, and it appears to be a close race; a Beacon Research/Shaw & Company Research poll sponsored by Fox News and conducted between Sept. 22 and 26 shows Warnock ahead of Walker by 5 points. It's an important seat for both parties, and there are many Republicans who believe Walker has both a strong chance of winning and enough goodwill from conservatives to ride this storm out. But what about those that aren't so sure?

Georgians "are not voting for fathers and husbands of the year"

Former President Donald Trump, one of Walker's most ardent supporters, said in a statement on Tuesday Walker "has properly denied the charges against him and I have no doubt he is correct. They are trying to destroy a man who has true greatness in his future, just as he had athletic greatness in his past." The Republican National Committee is also standing behind Walker, with Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claiming that the Daily Beast report was the work of "desperate Democrats and liberal media" who "have turned to anonymous sources and character assassination."

Some of Walker's other backers have chosen to dismiss the report because the candidate has taken a public stance against abortion — and that's good enough for them. "I have faith and confidence that Herschel will vote the right way," conservative activist Debbie Dooley told The New York Times. Conservative syndicated radio host Dana Loesch was also willing to give Walker a pass, crudely stating that "if true, Walker paid for one broad's abortion," which is more forgivable than Warnock's wholehearted embrace of abortion rights. "This isn't a difficult choice and conservatives shouldn't look to the left to validate their vote," Loesch added. "I want to control the Senate and you should, too. The end."

Ralph Reed, a conservative leader in Georgia, told the Times he "100 percent" expects evangelical Christians to keep supporting Walker, while Marci McCarthy, the Republican chair of DeKalb County, said allegations of lying and hypocrisy aren't enough to alienate GOP supporters: "Ultimately, Georgia's voters will put their own lives and livelihoods in first because, in either case, they are not voting for fathers and husbands of the year."

These aren't allegations that can be easily dismissed

But not everyone is convinced Walker can still soar to victory. In an election cycle where abortion rights are energizing Democratic and some independent voters, the allegations could not have come at a worse time. When reached for comment on the matter, one GOP strategist sent a Times reporter a GIF of the Titanic sinking.

Report aside, conservatives never should have supported Walker's bid to begin with, considering his ex-wife accused him of pointing a gun at her head and threatening to kill her, writes Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis. "Let's be honest," Lewis said. "Character doesn't matter. Today's Christian conservatives and the Republican Party have concluded that we are in a war with the left. And in wars, we do not have any room for niceties like policing our own side — or being concerned with silly things like character." Walker has never denied his ex-wife's claim.

By letting Trump "hijack the Republican Party, conservatives sent a message loud and clear that values don't matter," Lewis continued. "What matters are things like celebrity, image, and a reputation for fighting. ... [T]he fact that Christian conservative groups and the Republican Party are immediately rallying to support [Walker] demonstrates that the conservative movement is decadent and depraved."

Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host based in Georgia, said he believes "Walker has a really good chance to win," but that's without considering the effects of an attack ad in which Walker's ex-wife discusses his spousal abuse. The ad is "impacting Christian women who might otherwise hold their nose and vote Walker," Erickson tweeted. "I know a lot of these women. They keep talking about that ad, and Walker's team has not mounted an effective response, probably because they don't have the money to do so. Add in this abortion stuff and this is about keeping those women out of that race, which could work."

Erickson elaborated further during an interview with Axios, saying that while it's easy for Republicans to "dismiss the Daily Beast as a liberal publication," it's harder to ignore the tweets from Christian Walker — especially given the influencer's otherwise vocal support of Trump and the GOP. "That was what sent Republicans into a frenzy," Erickson said.

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