Things looked good for Herschel Walker on Monday morning. The football legend and Georgia Republican, having survived a summer of embarrassing headlines, was keeping his Senate race close against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, thanks to strong coattails from Gov. Brian Kemp, a resonant pro-America message, and improved message discipline in recent weeks.
But Monday night, in the space of just a few hours, the bottom fell out of Walker’s campaign.
First came an explosive report from the Daily Beast: A woman alleged that she had conceived a child with Walker in 2009, that he had urged her to get an abortion, and that he had then paid for it. The report was corroborated by a friend she had reportedly told at the time and physical evidence: a receipt for a $700 personal check dated the same week as the abortion and a get-well card, both signed by Walker.
Walker fiercely denied the report. “I’m not taking this anymore,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I planning [sic] to sue the Daily Beast for this defamatory lie. It will be filed tomorrow morning.”
Hours later, Walker appeared on Sean Hannity’s primetime Fox News show to discuss the report. Did he know the woman? “I have no idea,” Walker replied, “but it is a flat out lie.” Hannity pushed farther: Did he recognize the signature on the get-well card? Was it his? “I haven’t seen it, but you know, I can tell you, I sent out so many get well—sent out so much of anything,” Walker stammered. What about the $700 check? “Well, I send money to a lot of people. … I give money to people all the time, because I’m always helping people.”
Just as Hannity’s interview was airing, Walker’s adult son Christian—who is, for lack of a better term, an influencer in the MAGAsphere—weighed in. “Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past,” he tweeted. “Every single one. He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it. I’m done.”
“I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us,” Christian Walker went on. “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.”
These statements were particularly striking as Christian Walker had previously publicly supported his father’s campaign. Herschel Walker responded: “I LOVE my son no matter what.”
For now, Herschel Walker is staying the course. A spokesman for his campaign confirmed to The Dispatch that he was standing by his denial of the Daily Beast abortion story.
But it was the younger Walker’s apparent embrace of the allegation that sent Republican strategists across Georgia groping for their blood pressure medication. Asked to parse the evening’s events, one prominent conservative activist in the state texted: “game over.”
That might overstate the case: Republican voters have plenty of recent practice staring determinedly away from personal flaws in their candidates, as anyone who remembers the Trump-Access Hollywood scandal can attest. This goes double in Georgia, where many voters have already made their peace with a bevy of unpleasant reports about Walker’s history, from his previously unreported illegitimate children to his false claims about his employment past to his ex-wife’s testimony (confirmed by Walker himself) that he had repeatedly brandished a weapon and threatened to kill her. Last month, an assortment of supporters at Walker events spoke with one voice on the subject: “I think we look at a person’s past too much.” “We don’t want to mix the personal thing with the politics.” “I think that people need to step back and offer forgiveness.”
Still, this is a shocking development—Walker has campaigned as ferociously against abortion as any other candidate in America, calling for dramatic state and federal bans even as other Senate hopefuls dodge the issue and focus on economic issues. A well-sourced allegation of Walker personally encouraging and paying for an abortion—reporting that his own deeply Republican son apparently found credible—threatens to strike at the heart of that image.