An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Walker is in the National Football League Hall of Fame. He is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I am happy to endorse Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia. Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate,” McConnell said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Herschel in Washington to get the job done.”
He referred to Democrat Raphael G. Warnock, who won a special election runoff in January. The endorsement was first reported by Politico.
Walker touted McConnell’s endorsement on Wednesday with a brief video posted to his social media accounts.
“Thank you Leader McConnell for your endorsement,” Walker tweeted. “As I have said from the beginning, I am laser focused on bringing people together to win this seat back for GEORGIA and for America. #UnitedWeStand #DividedWeFall”
McConnell, who reportedly had reservations about Walker’s candidacy because of the allegations against him, indicated recently that he was warming to him. He told Politico that Walker — who was on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show — had “impressive performances on national television.”
“He’s called me; we had a good conversation,” McConnell said last month. “I think there’s every indication he’s going to be a good candidate.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), who holds the No. 2 GOP Senate leadership post, endorsed Walker on Monday.
“Herschel Walker is a fighter, a uniter, and a proven winner with the ability to bring Republicans together to win in November,” Thune, who faces a primary challenge next year, said in his endorsement.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Warnock next year, taking on a pastor who won one of two runoffs in January and helped deliver the Senate majority to the Democrats. The 2022 Georgia contest for a full, six-year term is certain to be one of the most competitive in a state that narrowly backed President Biden, the first Democrat to win there since 1992.
Walker, a 59-year-old former University of Georgia running back and College Football Hall of Famer, officially entered the race in August and has since received support from a number of high-profile Republicans despite having no significant experience in politics, as well as questions about his personal behavior, business record and residency.
Cindy Grossman, Walker’s ex-wife, claimed in divorce filings that her former husband was physically abusive and threatened to kill her, forcing her to secure a protective order against him that alleged violent and controlling behavior.
She told ABC News in 2008 that Walker had pointed a pistol at her head before saying: “I’m going to blow your f---ing brains out.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in August that Myka Dean, Walker’s ex-girlfriend, told police in 2012 that when she tried to end her relationship with Walker, he threatened to “blow her head off” and then kill himself.
Dean described the alleged threats made by Walker to authorities in Irving, Tex. The Journal-Constitution obtained the police report. No charges were filed against Walker.
Walker has denied the accusations from Dean.
“Herschel emphatically denies these false claims. He is still friendly with Ms. Dean’s parents, who knew nothing of the allegations and are supportive of his campaign,” Walker campaign spokeswoman Mallory Blount told The Washington Post.
Walker is president and chief executive of Renaissance Man Food Services, a large distributor of pork, chicken and bakery products to food service and retail marketplaces across the United States. But the company appears to be nowhere nearly as successful as Walker claims, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Walker has repeatedly claimed that Renaissance employs hundreds of people and grosses $70 million to $80 million annually in sales. But when the company applied for — and received — a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan last year, it reported only eight employees.
And according to recent court filings, Walker’s company averaged about $1.5 million a year over the past decade. In the same case, Walker’s business associates claimed that the candidate doesn’t actually own food processing plants as he has said but instead licenses his name to businesses in a way that is somewhat similar to how Trump has built his business empire.
Walker has repeatedly sparred with business associates over matters ranging from incorrectly billing partners to a Texas bank’s lawsuit against the candidate for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid debts, the AP reported.
In July, Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to McConnell who founded a firm that helps elect Republicans to the Senate, tweeted a link to the AP report and said: “This is about as comprehensive a takedown as I’ve ever read. My lord.”
On Thursday, Blount told The Post that Walker had faced “challenges along the way” like many other small-business owners, and noted his company is one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the food service industry.
“It’s sad that the left who usually uplifts minority business owners is intent on tearing Herschel down just because he is the Republican frontrunner for U.S. Senate,” Blount said in an email. The political affiliation of the business associates who have sued or testified against Walker and his business practices is unclear.
Walker will have several opponents in the GOP primary, including Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, construction firm owner Kelvin King and Latham Saddler, a former Navy SEAL who served on the National Security Council.
In response to McConnell’s endorsement, the Republican Accountability Project, a group that originally launched to collect anti-Trump testimonials from conservatives and moderates, posted Wednesday a clip from a 2010 Howard Stern interview, in which Walker talks about having played Russian roulette “over six times” because he loves competition.
“Mitch probably hasn’t seen this video yet,” the group tweeted.
Walker wrote about his struggle with mental health, including having played Russian roulette, in his 2008 book “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.” He said he was diagnosed with the disorder — which is characterized by memory gaps and switching between multiple identities — in 2002.