From the start, Republican leaders knew they were taking a risk in quickly unifying behind the Senate candidacy of Herschel Walker in Georgia.
Walker had never run for any office before and there were already well-known stories about his turbulent past out in the ether.
But Walker was a former football star – he won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 – and had the strong backing of former President Donald Trump. Given that, it was going to be very hard to stop Walker in a GOP primary. So the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got on board with the Walker campaign.
Doing so was always a gamble. And over the last 24 hours, it increasingly appears as though it was a bad bet.
The Daily Beast reported Monday night that Walker had paid for a woman’s abortion after the two conceived a child while they were dating in 2009.
The report stated that the woman, who the Daily Beast said asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, had supported those claims with a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a bank deposit receipt that showed an image of a signed personal check for $700 from Walker, and a “get well” card she claimed was from Walker, who was not married at the time. The Daily Beast also published a photo of the card, bearing what the outlet said was Walker’s signature.
CNN has not independently verified the allegations that the Daily Beast reported.
Walker said in a statement: “This is a flat-out lie – and I deny this in the strongest possible terms.” He also said on Tuesday morning that he planned to sue the Daily Beast for what he called a “defamatory lie.”
Christian Walker, one of the candidate’s sons, criticized his father on Twitter on Monday night. “I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability,” Christian Walker wrote. “But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’”
Walker, in response to his son’s posts, tweeted this: “I LOVE my son no matter what.”
Taken as a whole, it made for a massive – and massively bad – news cycle for Walker, who finds himself in a tight race with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia. The race is widely seen as one of a handful of key contests that will determine control of the Senate in November. Walker has also opposed abortion rights as a candidate.
And while these allegations may be among the most serious of the campaign to date, they are far from the first time Walker has been embroiled in controversy. Consider:
* Three women, including his ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend, have accused Walker of making threats against them.
* Walker had previously claimed to be in law enforcement, although there is scant evidence of that fact
* He publicly acknowledged that he had fathered three children with women he wasn’t married to.
* He has shown limited knowledge of major issues in the campaign – notably this answer on gun violence.
* There are myriad question marks about the business he has been involved with.
* Walker suggested that China was getting the United States’ “good air” and pushing its “bad air” back.
It’s, well, a lot.
Despite all of the negative storylines, Walker has stayed within shouting distance of Warnock in the polls. Recent surveys from Fox News, CBS/YouGov and Marist College show Warnock with a narrow single-digit lead.
Trump released a statement of support on Tuesday. “Herschel Walker is being slandered and maligned by the Fake News Media and obviously the Democrats,” he said.
It’s possible, of course, that Walker – like Trump – has the uncanny ability to weather and survive through stories that would end other campaigns – perhaps given the fact that voters still view Walker primarily as a football star and are willing to forgive him some of his mistakes as a candidate.
But those mistakes are legion. And this latest reporting from the Daily Beast drives home the key point in the race: Republicans have made a huge gamble on Walker – and done so in a race that could very well decide which party controls the US Senate.