Herschel Walker’s Senate Campaign Threatened By Scandal

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 4, 2022

Former professional football player Herschel Walker is a front-runner for the GOP in the Georgia election. But his turbulent private life and battles with mental illness have threatened to derail his bid — along with some misleading statements about his educational background. Now a bombshell report undercutting his stance on abortion threatens to upend his campaign.

Background

Born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1962, Herschel Walker was one of seven children. A CNN profile reveals that he grew up overweight, with a stutter, and was bullied by other kids. He started working out at 15, doing pushups and sit-ups, and eventually shaped up enough to become a three-sport athlete.

At Johnson County High School, Walker competed in football, basketball, and track. He rushed 3,167 yards for the high school football team, helping the Trojans win a state championship. (He later claimed to have graduated valedictorian of the school, but CNN later found that Johnson County High School didn’t even name a valedictorian until 1994.)

College Career

At the University of Georgia, Herschel Walker shined. He rushed for 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns his freshman year. The Georgia Bulldogs were undefeated (at 12-0) and won the national title. They beat the University of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship. Walker finished third in voting for the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award for a college football player.

As a sophomore, he ran towards career highs: 1,891 rushing yards and 18 TDs. (Georgia went 10-2 in 1981, and Walker finished second in voting that year, according to the Heisman website.) Then, in his junior year, he ran for 1,752 yards and 16 touchdowns — finally earning the Heisman in 1982. He became only the sixth junior to win the award.

(Original Caption) New York, New York: Georgia running back Herschel Walker, the most dominant player in college football the last three years, adds the Heisman Trophy to his treasure chest 11/4. Walker became only the sixth junior to win the coveted bronze statue.
NEW YORK, NY – CIRCA 1982: Herschel Walker of the University of Georgia Bulldogs poses with his Heisman Trophy at the Downtown Athletic Club circa 1982 in New York City. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
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The Bulldogs went 11-0 and made it to the Sugar Bowl championship against Penn State.

For years, Walker has said that he was valedictorian and graduated at the top of his class at the University of Georgia. He made the claim in a 2017 motivational speech: “And all of a sudden I started going to the library, getting books, standing in front of a mirror reading to myself,” he said. “So that Herschel that all the kids said was retarded became valedictorian of his class. Graduated University of Georgia in the top 1% of his class.”

But when Atlanta Journal-Constitution inquired about the claim that he’d earned a B.A. in Criminal Justice, Walker admitted he hadn’t graduated at all. “I was majoring in criminal justice at UGA when I left to play in the USFL my junior year,” Walker said in Dec. 2021.

Pro Football Career

In fact, Walker decided to go pro. He joined the United States Football League (USFL), signing with the New Jersey Generals. In his first season, Walker rushed for over 2400 yards and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player (according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia). In his three-year USFL career, Walker rushed for 5,562 yards. And he was “Best Dressed Athlete” in 1983.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – CIRCA 1983: Football star Herschel Walker of the USFL New Jersey Generals receives a gold medal, symbolic of his designation as “Best Dressed Athlete” for 1983, from John Tudor of the Fashion Foundation of America at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
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After the USFL folded, Walker signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1986. He joined fellow running back Tony Dorsett on the team. Walker rushed for NFL career highs of 1,514 yards and 505 receiving yards; he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1987 and 1988. He later went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. Walker even competed as part of the US men’s bobsledding team in 1992! He returned to the Dallas Cowboys before retiring in 1997.

Post-NFL: Mental Illness & Violent Threats

In 2001, Herschel Walker was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (or dissociative identity disorder). The National Alliance on Mental Illness says: “Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a severe mental health condition marked by frequent mood changes, an unstable self-image, and intense and unbalanced relationships.” (Other symptoms include suicidal behavior or threats and difficulty controlling anger.)

Walker has described battling up to a dozen personalities (or “alters”, per the Associated Press). The National Alliance says that the disorder creates “alternating between multiple identities” with memory gaps, and states that men with the disorder “exhibit more violent behavior”. Indeed, Walker’s wife (who filed for divorce the year of his diagnosis) cited “physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior” in her filing. She told ABC News that Walker once pointed a pistol at her head and said, “I’m going to blow your f–king brains out.”

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Four years later, Grossman secured an order of protection against him. Seeking protection from a judge in Dallas County, Grossman filed an affidavit from her sister, who stated that Walker was angry about his ex-wife dating another man after the divorce. Walker told family members that he would kill her and her boyfriend, according to Cindy Grossman’s sister Maria Tsettos.

In the affidavit, Tsettos claimed Walker once called looking for his ex-wife while she was out with her boyfriend. Tsettos took the call and said Walker became “very threatening” when told of Grossman’s whereabouts. In Tsettos’ recollection, Walker “stated unequivocally that he was going to shoot my sister Cindy and her boyfriend in the head.”

According to the Associated Press, Tsettos said she talked to Walker “at length” on Dec. 9, 2005, after he’d reached out to her online. He “expressed to me that he was frustrated with (Cindy) and that he felt like he had ‘had enough’ and that he wanted to ‘blow their f—— heads off,’” she recalled. Two days later, he repeated the threats. This time, he said he had a gun. (The judge granted the order.)

In a 2008 interview, Walker did not deny the charges of brandishing a gun, telling ABC News he “probably did it” but could not recall. (Memory gaps are a hallmark feature of DID.)

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Campaign

Walker’s Senate campaign has been dogged by gaffes on climate change and the environment. He also came under fire for inflating claims about his business profits. Now, an explosive new report by The Daily Beast contradicts Walker’s stance on one of the nation’s most controversial issues.

Following the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade in July, abortion rights have become a pivotal campaign issue across the country. The ruling fueled spikes in voter registration and turnout nationwide, especially among women. A recent CBS/YouGov survey found that likely Georgia voters who said abortion is “very important” were more than twice as likely to support Walker’s opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock. (He polled 67 percent to Walker’s 32 percent.)

According to CNN, Walker said last month he would support a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks. He said in May that he supports a ban and that there are “no exceptions in my mind.” That means no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

But apparently Walker supports one exception — for himself.

“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 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 woman said there’s a $125 difference because she “ball-parked” the cost of the procedure after looking it up on Google. She added travel costs.)”

According to the $575 receipt, the abortion took place on Sept. 12, 2009. And according to the Bank of America deposit receipt, Walker wrote the woman a check for $700 on Sept. 17, 2009. (She deposited the check two days later.) The woman told The Daily Beast that Walker mailed her the check inside the “get well” card.

Photo from the Daily Beast.
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Walker denies the report. “I never asked anyone to get an abortion,” Walker told Fox News shortly after the story broke Monday night. “I never paid for an abortion. And it’s a lie.”

“This is a flat-out lie – and I deny this in the strongest possible terms,” he tweeted last night. He called the report “a repugnant hatchet job”. He claimed Beast writer Roger Sollenberger is “a Democrat activist disguised as a reporter”. And he says he’s going to sue for defamation: “I’m not taking this anymore. I [am] planning to sue The Daily Beast for this defamatory lie. It will be filed tomorrow morning.”

As of 2:18 pm CST, no lawsuit has been filed.

UPDATE (Oct. 14): Tonight, Walker debated Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock. The televised debate aired on NewsNation. Walker repeated his denial about paying for an abortion: “Well, as I said, that’s a lie. One thing about my life, I’ve been very transparent. Not like the Senator. He’s hid things.” He added: “I said that was a lie, and I’m not backing down.”

“I’m a Christian. I believe in life.”

The moderator pointed out that Walker’s been vocally pro-life, supporting a ban on abortion without exceptions. But Walker said that isn’t true, saying he’d supported the “heartbeat bill” proposed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. (But as recently as July, Walker was on the campaign trail sayingit’s a problem” that there was no national ban.) Check out the full exchange below:

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