Herschel Walker doesn’t generally say much about public policy. That’s not ideal — the Georgia Republican is, after all, running for the U.S. Senate — but it’s also not too surprising: Walker has effectively no background in governing, and he hasn’t shown any meaningful interest in policymaking.
The former football player has, however, taken a firm position on one important issue: Walker has said he supports an abortion ban, with no exceptions. It’s an extreme position that most Americans oppose.
It’s also relevant anew given allegations from the GOP candidate’s personal life. The Daily Beast reported last night:
A woman who asked not to be identified out of privacy concerns told The Daily Beast that after she and Walker conceived a child while they were dating in 2009 he urged her to get an abortion. The woman said she had the procedure and that Walker reimbursed her for it. She supported these claims 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.
The Daily Beast’s report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, added that the outlet “independently corroborated details of the woman’s claims with a close friend she told at the time and who, according to the woman and the friend, took care of her in the days after the procedure.”
The woman in question, who has not been identified, told the Daily Beast that Walker said at the time that it was “not the right time” for him to have another child, soon after having an out-of-wedlock child with a different woman earlier that same year.
She added that Walker never expressed any regret, and she came forward in light of the Republican taking a far-right stance on reproductive rights.
“I just can’t with the hypocrisy anymore,” she said. “We all deserve better.”
The Republican campaign insisted that the story is “false,” and Walker himself issued a statement last night which read in part, “I’m not taking this anymore. I planning [sic] to sue the Daily Beast for this defamatory lie.”
It was against this backdrop that one of the candidate’s adult children, Christian Walker, turned to social media to accuse the Senate hopeful of “making a mockery” of their family.
“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,” the son wrote, adding, “You’ve lived a life of destroying other peoples’ lives.”
Around the same time, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued an odd statement complaining about news organizations and inflation, while more or less signaling that the party would continue to support Walker’s candidacy in Georgia’s critically important Senate race.
In case that weren’t quite enough, the candidate turned to Fox News to deny The Daily Beast’s reporting, though he didn’t deny sending the woman in question a check and a “get well” card. Walker specifically told Sean Hannity, who showed a picture of the card on screen, “I sent out so many get well, send out so much of anything.”
I’m not quite sure what that meant.
The result, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it, was a campaign “in turmoil.” And while that seems more than fair given the circumstances, what’s less clear is whether, and to what extent, the allegations will affect the outcome of Georgia’s highly competitive contest.
To be sure, in the not-too-distant past, a story like this would’ve effectively ended a Senate candidate’s chances of success. Walker has already struggled with a series of brutal revelations, including brazen lies about key aspects of his background, but there was a time in our political history when a Republican simply couldn’t get away with running as an anti-abortion candidate while also having been credibly accused of paying for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion.
I’m less sure that we still live in such a political climate. After all, in the runup to the 2016 presidential campaign, Americans heard a recording of Donald Trump boasting about his sexual exploits. “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” the Republican said on the recording, adding, “Grab ‘em by the p----. You can do anything.”
Soon after, there were very real conversations in GOP circles about possibly removing Trump from the ballot and finding a new presidential candidate at the 11th hour. Many in the party assumed that Americans simply wouldn’t tolerate a White House hopeful who bragged on tape about sexual assaults.
A month later, he won anyway.
Yes, the Georgia race is qualitatively different, and Sen. Raphael Warnock isn’t Hillary Clinton. And yes, James Comey probably won’t announce an investigation into Warnock’s emails as early voting gets underway. The parallels are imprecise.
But I’ve also learned that when a part of me thinks, “Well, no candidate could possibly overcome that,” it’s important to ignore those assumptions.