DUNWOODY, Ga. (AP) — Herschel Walker, who has vehemently opposed abortion rights as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Georgia, paid for an abortion for his girlfriend in 2009, according to a new report. The candidate called the accusation a “flat-out lie” and said he would sue.
The Daily Beast spoke to the former girlfriend, who asked that her name not be used out of concerns for her privacy. In the report published late Monday, the news outlet said it reviewed a receipt showing her $575 payment for the procedure, along with a get-well card from Walker and her bank deposit records showing the image of a $700 personal check from Walker dated five days after the abortion receipt.
The woman said Walker encouraged her to end the pregnancy, saying that the time wasn't right for a baby, The Daily Beast reported. As a candidate, Walker has characterized abortion as “a woman killing her baby” and has played up his opposition to the procedure in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year stripping a woman's constitutional right to access abortion services.
In a statement, Walker said he would file a lawsuit against The Daily Beast on Tuesday morning.
"This is a flat-out lie — and I deny this in the strongest terms possible," he wrote.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, Walker had not taken any legal action, according to a campaign spokesman.
Matt Fuller, the politics editor for The Daily Beast, tweeted in response to Walker's initial denial: “I can tell you we stand behind every word and feel very solid about the story."
Later Monday night, Walker appeared on Sean Hannity's program on Fox News, where Walker was asked if he recalled sending a $700 check to a girlfriend.
“Well, I sent money to a lot of people,” he said. "I give money to people all the time because I’m always helping people. I believe in being generous. God has blessed me. I want to bless others.”
Former President Donald Trump, who encouraged Walker to run for Senate, said Walker was being “slandered and maligned.”
“Herschel has properly denied the charges against him, and I have no doubt he is correct," Trump said in a statement.
Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock are engaged in a tight contest that is key to the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. The chamber is now divided 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote to give Democrats control. Warnock won the seat in a special election runoff on Jan. 5, 2021, prevailing by 2 percentage points over then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican.
The allegation against Walker is the latest in a series of stories about the football legend's past that has rocked the first-time candidate’s campaign in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country. Earlier this year, Walker acknowledged reports that he had three children he had not previously talked about publicly.
Walker has often boasted of his work helping service members and veterans struggling with mental health. Yet The Associated Press reported in May that various records showed he overstated his role in a for-profit program that is alleged to have preyed upon veterans and service members while defrauding the government.
The AP also has reported that a review of public records detailed accusations that Walker repeatedly threatened his ex-wife’s life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior. Walker himself has at times discussed his long struggle with mental illness.
Republicans targeted Warnock as perhaps the most vulnerable of the Democratic Senate incumbents. But they were also skeptical about Walker's viability as a statewide candidate, especially through the spring and summer as Walker's past was aired publicly. In recent months, Walker found his footing by attacking Warnock for backing President Joe Biden's agenda in Washington. Biden won Georgia narrowly but has seen his approval ratings in the state fall significantly since 2020.
But Walker also has made abortion an issue. During the Republican Senate primary, he openly backed a national ban on abortions with no exceptions for cases involving rape, incest or a woman’s health being at risk — particularly notable at a time when the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court precedent has been overturned and Democrats in Congress have been discussing codifying abortion rights into federal law.
“I'm for life,” Walker has said repeatedly as he campaigns. When asked about whether he’d allow for any exceptions, he has said there are “no excuses” for the procedure.
As the Republican nominee, Walker has sometimes sidestepped questions about his earlier support for a national abortion ban, a tacit nod to the fact that most voters, including many Republicans, want at least some legal access to abortion. Walker instead tries to turn the issue against Warnock, who supports abortion rights. Walker often says he doesn't understand how Warnock, a Baptist pastor, can support the procedure being legal.
Campaigning in Dunwoody, an Atlanta suburb, on Monday night, Warnock stressed his support for abortion rights.
“I have a profound reverence for life. I have a deep and abiding respect for choice. I believe a patient’s room is too small and cramped a space for a woman, her doctor and the United States government,” he said, emphasizing Walker's support for a national ban.
Warnock was dismissive when told of The Daily Beast story and when asked whether it might affect the outcome in Georgia. “I'll let the pundits decide,” he said.
Walker's son, Christian Walker, criticized his father in a series of tweets late Monday, saying his family “asked him not to run for office.”
“I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability,” Christian Walker tweeted. “But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’ You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.”
For now, Republicans in Washington are standing by Walker, with a spokesman for the Senate GOP's campaign arm dismissing The Daily Beast story as “nonsense” rooted in desperation by Democrats.
“They and their media allies are doing what they always do — attack Republicans with innuendo and lies,” said Chris Hartline, a top aide at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Bill Barrow, The Associated Press