In campaign politics, when candidates are caught in lies, they generally try to change the subject and hope voters overlook their mendacity. In Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, Herschel Walker got caught in a lie, and he seems desperate to draw attention to it, practically bragging about how great his lie is.
The issue, of course, is Walker having lied to the public about having a background in law enforcement, and the honorary deputy sheriff’s badge the Republican keeps presenting as if it were legitimate. As NBC News reported, he’s not letting this go.
Walker, a Republican, is now showing the badge, one of at least two he has from Georgia sheriffs, in TV interviews. He plans to tout it in a video cut for social media with Johnson County Sheriff Greg Rowland, who gave him the badge. And Walker’s campaign told NBC News that it has ordered 1,000 imitation plastic law enforcement badges that say “I’m with Herschel” as a fundraising tool.
This is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a statewide campaign in a long time.
The problem began in June, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported that Walker had repeatedly made false claims about serving in law enforcement. (This included an instance in which he boasted about being an “agent” with the FBI, which was also a lie.)
As the summer continued, the first-time GOP candidate tried to pretend his lie was true by releasing a photo of a badge. It wasn’t real, but he acted as if it were legitimate, doubling down on his original dishonest claims. The Republican’s campaign said he was an “honorary deputy,” though a former DeKalb County district attorney told the Journal-Constitution the title was meaningless, even if true.
Being an “honorary deputy,” a local prosecutor said, is like having “a junior ranger badge.”
In related news, when I was a child, I took a trip to visit some relatives, and a flight attendant gave me a pair of plastic wings I could pin to my shirt. It did not mean they were prepared to let me pilot the airplane.
And yet, at last week’s debate with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Walker tripled down, displayed his badge for the audience, and insisted it the trinket was “real.”
Soon after, the Georgia Republican quadrupled down, telling NBC News’ Kristen Welker, “That is a legit badge. I carry it with me all the time. It’s a real badge. It’s not a fake badge.... If anything happened in this county, I have the right to work with the police in getting things done.”
Walker added, “I work in law enforcement.”
He does not actually work in law enforcement.
And now Walker is effectively making this bewildering claim a centerpiece of his campaign, as if voters should elect him, not despite his lie, but because of it.
Last night, the GOP candidate even released a video alongside Johnson County Sheriff Greg Rowland, and the two men showed their badges, only one of which was legitimate. “If Herschel’s badge is a prop, then I guess this badge I wear every day to protect the citizens — I guess it’s a prop also," Rowland said in the clip.
Except that’s ridiculous. Sheriffs have real legal authority. Actual sheriff’s badges let the public know that officials have state-sanctioned powers to enforce the law.
What Walker has is a toy given to him because he used to play football. As we’ve discussed, if the candidate tried to use this prop to “get things done” alongside real police officers, he could be arrested for impersonating a cop.
We’re left with the possibility that Walker, in his heart of hearts, genuinely believes his own lie — which in some ways is the worst of all possible outcomes. It’s one thing for a politician to cynically try to pull a fast one, assuming voters won’t know the difference, but it’s something else entirely for a politician to be so far gone that he sees an honorary badge and assumes he has real law enforcement powers.
If this isn’t disqualifying, I don’t know what it is.