What to know about Herschel Walker's Senate campaign -- and mounting controversies

The Republican is challenging Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

October 11, 2022, 6:12 PM

Herschel Walker has been running to replace Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock for more than a year.

While the businessman and local college football legend has seen some notable victories during his campaign -- including earning the endorsement of leading Republicans like and Donald Trump and winning his primary by an enormous margin -- he has also grappled with an ongoing series of controversies.

Some of them, like resurfaced reports about violence in his first marriage amid what he said was a struggle with dissociative identity disorder, he has not contested.

Others -- like whether he wrongly claimed to have "worked in law enforcement" or hid his number of children -- he has challenged or downplayed, saying the facts are being distorted.

Still others he has denied outright: Last week, he said a report in The Daily Beast that an ex-girlfriend claimed he paid for her to have an abortion in 2009 was a lie.

These issues have become a part of his campaign messaging. In an ad released this month, he talked about his issues with mental health and his "redemption."

Here's a timeline of his campaign so far.

PHOTO: Former college football star and current senatorial candidate Herschel Walker shakes hands with former President Donald Trump during a rally in Perry, Georgia, September 25, 2021.
Former college football star and current senatorial candidate Herschel Walker shakes hands with former President Donald Trump during a rally in Perry, Georgia, September 25, 2021.
Dustin Chambers/Reuters, FILE

Aug. 25, 2021: Walker's Senate campaign launches

Walker officially launches his campaign for Georgia's 2022 Senate race against incumbent Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock. His bid comes after months of speculation and hints of his own, fueled in part by public urging from former President Trump, a longtime friend.

"Our country is at a crossroads, and I can't sit on the sidelines anymore. America is the greatest country in the world, but too many politicians in Washington are afraid to say that. ... I have lived the American Dream, but I am concerned it is slipping away for many people," Walker says in a statement, pledging to "stand up for conservative values" if elected.

As the first electoral test since Georgia narrowly flipped for President Joe Biden in November 2020 and then gave Democrats the slimmest of Senate majorities in January 2021 by electing Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Republicans have been eager to show that their historic stronghold is not becoming a blue state.

Sept. 2, 2021: Walker gets Trump's endorsement

Just over a week after the GOP hopeful announces his Senate aspirations, Trump gives Walker his "Complete and Total Endorsement," praising him as "a Patriot and an outstanding American who is going to be a GREAT United States Senator."

"Herschel Walker will never let you down," Trump says in a statement.

Walker in turn thanks the former president in a tweet, writing: "Together, we will win back the U.S. Senate for GEORGIA!!"

Their relationship dates back to Walker playing in the United States Football League in the 1980s (and later appearing on "The Celebrity Apprentice").

PHOTO: Republican Senate candidate for Georgia, Herschel Walker speaks at a campaign event on September 9, 2022 in Gwinnett, Georgia.
Republican Senate candidate for Georgia, Herschel Walker speaks at a campaign event on September 9, 2022 in Gwinnett, Georgia.
Megan Varner/Getty Images, FILE

Oct. 27, 2021: Walker gets McConnell's endorsement

Walker receives another early and influential endorsement, this one from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, nearly a year before the primary.

"I am happy to endorse Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia," McConnell says in a statement, contradicting some reports of reluctance to back Walker among Senate Republicans.

"Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock and help us take back the Senate," McConnell says.

At that point, he is the sixth U.S. senator to endorse Walker after John Thune of South Dakota, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Steve Daines of Montana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

December 2021: Walker clarifies that he's not college graduate

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes in a report that Walker's campaign has removed the false information that he graduated from the University of Georgia, where he was a college football star in the early '80s.

In a statement to the AJC, Walker says that he went to play in the USFL when he was a college junior and later returned to Georgia to complete his degree at UGA but "life and football got in the way."

May 2022

Walker's campaign briefly addresses the scrutiny he's faced over past allegations of domestic violence and threats.

Those accusations were previously covered on ABC's "Nightline" and elsewhere in 2008 when Walker published a memoir about his diagnosis with dissociative identity disorder, or D.I.D., a complex mental health condition characterized by some severe and potentially debilitating symptoms.

His Senate campaign website states that his D.I.D. was caused by childhood trauma.

In May 2022, campaign spokesperson Mallory Blount tells ABC News: "The same reporters who praised him for his courage [then] are now trashing him because he is a Republican. It is shameful and is why good people don't run for office."

In a 2008 interview with "Nightline," Walker claimed not to remember some of the claims against him -- a byproduct, he said, of D.I.D.

In response to allegations from ex-wife Cindy Grossman that he threatened her with a weapon, Walker told ABC News in 2008 that he had no recollection of the incident she described.

"I'm talking about everything else. If I can remember it, I'll talk about it," he said then.

Grossman spoke with "Nightline" in 2008 and also alleged Walker at one point put a gun to her head and said he would shoot her.

He told ABC News at the time that he had no recollection of the incident described by Grossman. He did not deny it, acknowledging that he "probably did it."

Walker has since insisted he received therapy and that he's made a full recovery and taken responsibility for any past transgressions.

Grossman did not comment to ABC News in May 2022.

She and Walker divorced in 2002, and she sought and was granted a restraining order against him in 2005. Court records related to those proceedings contain additional allegations that Walker made other threats of violence toward Grossman and her then-boyfriend.

Walker denied the allegations when he was interviewed by police in 2005, and the police report notes that he "was very calm but surprised about [the statements]" and suggested that someone was "making allegations about him to help with future child custody issues."

Walker has claimed that, before his recovery, his psyche fractured into as many as 12 alternate personalities, or "alters," and he admitted to experiencing both violent urges and significant gaps in memory.

In his memoir, Walker described one incident, from 2001, in which he became "so angry" with someone who arrived late to deliver him a car that Walker became consumed with "the visceral enjoyment I'd get from seeing the small entry wound and the spray of brain tissue and blood — like a Fourth of July firework — exploding behind him."

"With murder in his heart and mind," Walker wrote, he got behind the wheel of his Mercedes -- where he kept a Beretta pistol in the glove compartment -- to find the delivery man. But he soon spotted a "SMILE. JESUS LOVES YOU" bumper sticker, he wrote, and returned home.

May 24, 2022: Walker wins Republican Senate primary

Walker wins Georgia's GOP Senate primary.

He defeats five fellow Republicans: Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, former Trump administration official and Navy veteran Latham Saddler, retired Brig. Gen. Jon McColumn, contractor and Air Force veteran Kelvin King and former state Rep. Josh Clark.

"The road to defeating the Biden agenda runs through Georgia," Walker says after winning the nomination.

PHOTO: Christian Walker, son of U.S. Republican Senate candidate for Georgia, Herschel Walker, speaks in a post from his Twitter feed, Oct. 4, 2022.
Christian Walker, son of U.S. Republican Senate candidate for Georgia, Herschel Walker, speaks in a post from his Twitter feed, Oct. 4, 2022.
ChristianWalk1r/Twitter

June 2022: Walker says he has 4 children

Walker says he has four total children including son Christian -- his sole child with ex-wife Cindy Grossman, whom he divorced when their son was 3. Walker is later publicly criticized by his son as an absent father, with his son saying in a video on Twitter: "You know my favorite issue to talk about is father absence. Surprise! Because it affected me ... He has four kids, four different women. Wasn't in the house raising one of them."

Walker's statements on his children in June, issued via his campaign, come after a series of reports in The Daily Beast about his three kids other than Christian. While Walker had long spoken of his son with Grossman, The Daily Beast asserted that he had not publicly mentioned the three other children.

The issue of Walker's involvement as a parent brings renewed focus to the fact that he has repeatedly touted the importance of being an active dad and, in particular, has said "the fatherless home is a major, major problem" for Black people.

In statements to ABC News, Walker pushes back on any criticism that his kids were kept out of view.

"I have four children. Three sons and a daughter. They're not 'undisclosed' - they're my kids," he says. "I support them all and love them all. I've never denied my children ... What parent would want their child involved in garbage, gutter politics like this?"

Walker says in his statements that he had "confirmed" all of his children as part of his appointment to the President's Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition under Donald Trump but "I just chose not to use them as props to win a political campaign."

June 13, 2022: Walker says he was honorary deputy

The AJC highlights Walker's long history of describing himself as having "worked in law enforcement," including attending the "FBI training school" in some capacity.

According to the AJC, Walker once described himself as "a certified peace officer."

But the AJC report said it isn't true that Walker was in law enforcement.

Walker's campaign tells the paper that he had been an honorary sheriff's deputy for a period of time -- a title that has no legal authority -- and helped teach women's self-defense classes and spoke "to police about mental health." The campaign also states that Walker "participat[ed] in the FBI Academy."

Later, Walker tweets a photo that he says shows he was an "Honorary Agent and Special Deputy Sheriff of Cobb County [in the Atlanta area] for many years."

PHOTO: Republican candidate for Senate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally on May 23, 2022 in Athens, Georgia.
Republican candidate for Senate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally on May 23, 2022 in Athens, Georgia.
Megan Varner/Getty Images, FILE

Oct. 3, 2022: Walker denies paying for an abortion

Walker denies a report in The Daily Beast in which an unnamed woman claims that Walker -- now campaigning as an anti-abortion politician -- reimbursed her for an abortion in 2009.

"I can tell you right now, I never asked anyone to get an abortion," Walker tells Sean Hannity in an interview on Fox News. "I never paid for an abortion -- it's a lie."

The woman, who described herself as an ex-girlfriend, tells The Daily Beast that she has documents supporting her allegation: a receipt from an abortion clinic, a bank deposit receipt with an image of a $700 check that she said was signed by Walker sent within a week of the abortion and also a "get well" card that she said was signed by Walker.

ABC News has not independently confirmed The Daily Beast's reporting.

The same day the first article is published, Walker's son Christian, an outspoken conservative social media personality and podcast host, public lambastes him as deceitful.

"Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one," Christian Walker writes on Twitter. "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."

Herschel Walker tweets on Monday, too: "I LOVE my son no matter what," he writes.

Though a prominent conservative firebrand, Christian Walker has not appeared in a major way with his father on the trail. He said he attended one event with his dad last year, but nothing since.

Separately, Christian Walker also sold some pro-Herschel Walker merchandise through his website, though those items appear to have been removed.

"I did ONE campaign event, then said I didn't want involvement," Christian Walker says in a tweet.

Oct. 4, 2022: Walker's son publicly criticizes him

Less than 24 hours after accusing his father of "destroying" lives following the report in The Daily Beast, Christian Walker doubles down on his scathing response to Herschel Walker in a pair of videos on Twitter.

"I stayed silent as the atrocities against my mom were downplayed. I stayed silent when it came out that my father Herschel Walker had all these random kids across the country -- none of whom he raised," Christian Walker says in one video.

Oct. 5, 2022

The Daily Beast publishes an additional article: The woman alleging Herschel Walker paid for her abortion in 2009 is also the mother of one of his four children, she claims. (ABC News has not independently confirmed this report.)

The woman says Walker is the father of a son born in 2012 whom she has been raising ever since.

In a brief statement, Herschel Walker says: "There is no truth to this or any other Daily Beast report."

Oct. 6, 2022: He answers questions from reporters

Herschel Walker holds his first public campaign event since The Daily Beast articles. Appearing in Wadley, Georgia, he briefly mentions the new claims to a crowd of mostly lumber company employees but spends most of the time delivering his routine remarks -- highlighting his famed sports career.

"Everybody knows the glory, but they don't know the story. And I have a story," he says at the event. He then speaks about how he made his college decision based on a coin flip and his stint as a mixed martial arts fighter.

Speaking with the press that afternoon in Wadley, Herschel Walker offers shifting defenses about some of the controversies in his personal life. But he projects confidence about his race against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock: "I'm here to win the seat for the Georgia people because the Georgia people need a winner."

In an interview before speaking with reporters, Herschel Walker tells conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that if the unnamed woman's account in The Daily Beast was accurate, it would be "nothing to be ashamed of."

"Had that happened, I would have said it, because it's nothing to be ashamed of there," he told Hewitt.

But later, answering questions from reporters on Thursday afternoon, Herschel Walker insists that his "nothing to be ashamed of" comment was referring to his ex-wife and their son -- not the unnamed woman.

"I was talking about something totally different," he says, adding, "I said this here, the abortion thing, is false."

He calls The Daily Beast reports and related claims an attempt by Democrats to smear his candidacy with about a month left until the midterm elections.

"The Democrats are desperate to hold onto this seat here. They're desperate to make this race about my family," he says.

Oct. 7, 2022: Text messages between Herschel Walker's wife, accuser

A day later, in an interview with NBC News, Herschel Walker appears to confirm that he did have a past relationship with the unnamed woman who alleged that he paid for her abortion in 2009 and who said that several years later she bore his son.

But he reiterates that he had no involvement in whether she had an abortion.

"I'm not saying she did or didn't have one [an abortion]. I'm saying I don't know anything about that. I don't know," he tells NBC News.

Of the check the woman said Herschel Walker sent to her as reimbursement for the abortion, he says, "I was dating her. I could have sent some money. I could have sent a card. But not for the reasons she is saying."

Herschel Walker's campaign also provides NBC News with text messages dating from May 2022 between his wife, Julie Walker, and the unnamed woman who spoke with The Daily Beast. The messages, which ABC News has not independently reviewed, appear to show the woman has been in communication over the years with Herschel Walker and his wife, largely revolving around the woman's son with Herschel Walker.

In the texts, the woman asks Herschel Walker's wife if she was aware he paid for her abortion, as she had claimed to The Daily Beast.

"This makes me incredibly sad. You know I have continually tried to bridge a better relationship between you and Herschel," Julie Walker writes back, without confirming, denying or addressing the alleged abortion payment.

Separately, The New York Times publishes a report in which the unnamed woman claims Herschel Walker -- after allegedly paying for her abortion in 2009 -- three years later urged her to terminate the pregnancy of their now 10-year-old son.

According to the Times, the woman says she and Herschel Walker ended their relationship when she refused.

In interviews with the Times, the woman says Walker had barely been involved in their son's life, offering little more than court-ordered child support and occasional gifts.

Walker's campaign declines to comment to the Times. ABC News has not independently confirmed the Times report.

Oct. 11, 2022

In an interview with ABC News' Linsey Davis, Herschel Walker repeats his denials about the abortion claim.

"I know nothing about an abortion," he says, suggesting that the allegation was politically motivated in the final weeks of race. "I knew it was a lie and I said it was a lie -- and I just move on … it's sad that people say October surprise, but you're destroying families."

"I know initially last week you were saying you weren't even sure who the woman was," Davis tells him in the interview.

"Which is true," he responds.

"But at this point, you now know who she is?" Davis asks.

"Yes, yes," he says.

"Have you had a conversation with her?" Davis presses.

"Not at all," he says.

ABC News' Lucien Bruggeman, Adam Carlson, Lalee Ibssa, Stephanie Lorenzo, Pete Madden and Brittany Shepherd contributed to this report.

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