After retiring from professional athletics, Herschel Walker has held a handful of different jobs, including working as a paid motivational speaker. As part of these speeches, he’s told audiences about how he turned his life around as a young man, became an avid reader, was valedictorian at his high school, and went on to graduate from the University of Georgia in the top 1 percent of his class.
That is, to be sure, a great story. As CNN reported, it’s just not a true story.
Walker, who is a candidate in the Republican primary race for US Senate in Georgia, acknowledged in December that he did not graduate from Georgia after the Atlanta-Journal Constitution first reported that the false claim was listed on his campaign website. But a CNN KFile review found that Walker himself has been repeating the claim for years. Walker’s comments in 2017, and others made over the years, show the former football star repeatedly misrepresented his academic credentials.
This is not a situation in which Walker simply misspoke at a public event or two. Rather, the Republican repeatedly claimed in a variety of forums that he was his high school’s valedictorian, received a degree from the University of Georgia, and graduated in the top 1 percent of his class. It now appears none of these claims is true, and his aides provided no evidence to bolster the dubious assertions.
There’s no reason to believe Walker's educational background is necessarily disqualifying. After all, there are other members of Congress who never received college degrees.
The question, however, is why Walker routinely made claims about his educational background that don’t stand up to scrutiny.
It seems likely that some of the candidate’s defenders will argue that the Republican’s rhetorical record simply isn’t that important. Sure, he’s misstated his educational background, but in the grand scheme of things, this is just a small part of the larger U.S. Senate race.
The trouble is, because Walker is a first-time candidate with no meaningful background in public service, all the public has to go on is his record — and it’s not faring especially well.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, many of the issues plaguing Walker’s Senate candidacy have nothing to do with what he’s said. It’s become obvious, for example, that the Georgia Republican knows effectively nothing about public affairs. Voters have also learned about allegations of domestic violence and other dangerous personal behavior. His failures as a businessman have also been well documented.
But his rhetoric hasn’t helped.
Late last year, the first-time candidate tried to argue that the late-Rep. John Lewis was a senator who’d oppose the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We learned soon after that Walker had falsely claimed the FDA had approved an unproven “dry mist” mystery treatment for Covid-19. The Republican then said it was “totally unfair“ to ask for his opinion about the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Last month, Walker suggested the existence of apes calls evolutionary biology into question and seemed to argue that in-vitro fertilization doesn’t work “because there has to be a God.”
We’re reminded anew why the Georgian’s campaign team has tried to limit the retired football player’s public appearances and kept Walker “largely behind closed doors.”