The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

As Herschel Walker’s GOP profile rises, the falsehoods mount

U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks to supporters during an election night watch party on May 24 in Atlanta. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

During the course of Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign, the Republican nominee in Georgia has won the hearts of former president Donald Trump and GOP voters hoping he can defeat freshman Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) in November.

But the football legend’s campaign has also faced blowback from critics and Democrats for false claims he made before and during his candidacy that have surfaced in recent months — from his college education and business background to his questioning of evolution and promoting a “mist” he said would “kill any covid on your body.”

The latest came Monday when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on previous speeches and statements given by Walker about how he claimed in 2017 that he had worked with police in Cobb County, Ga. Two years later, Walker mentioned he was an FBI agent.

“I worked for law enforcement, y’all didn’t know that either?” he said in 2019. “I spent time at Quantico at the FBI training school. Y’all didn’t know I was an agent?”

In reality, he had not. A spokesman for the Cobb County Police Department told the Journal-Constitution, and later confirmed to The Washington Post, that it has no record of working with Walker. A campaign spokeswoman told the Atlanta newspaper that Walker had led “women’s self-defense training, participating in the FBI Academy at Quantico” and also held the title of “honorary deputy” in Cobb County.

The title of “honorary deputy” holds no power at all and is seen as a “political token” for people supportive of the sheriff who might want to get out of a traffic ticket, former DeKalb County district attorney J. Tom Morgan told The Post. Morgan is a Democrat.

“It absolutely means nothing,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of a junior ranger badge.”

A Walker campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Neither an FBI spokesperson nor a Cobb County Sheriff’s Office official immediately responded to requests for comment.

Walker is among the 100-plus GOP primary winners who have supported Trump’s false claims that there was widespread fraud during the 2020 presidential election, according to a new Post analysis. District by district, state by state, voters through the end of May have chosen at least 108 candidates for statewide office or Congress who have repeated Trump’s falsehoods. The number jumps to at least 149 winning candidates — out of more than 170 races — when it includes those who have campaigned on a platform of tightening voting rules or more stringently enforcing those already on the books, despite the lack of evidence of widespread fraud.

More than 100 GOP primary winners back Trump’s false fraud claims

Despite some high-profile setbacks for his candidates, notably in Georgia, Trump’s demand that fellow Republicans embrace the cause of election denialism has become a price of admission in most Republican primaries. The collection of falsehoods that House committee members investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have described as “the “big lie” is now a central driving force of the Republican Party.

The relationship between Walker and Trump goes as far back as 1984, when Trump bought the USFL team that lured the Heisman Trophy winner away from the University of Georgia. Walker wrote in his 2008 memoir that Trump “became a mentor to me.” At a rally last year, Walker joined the former president onstage in Perry, Ga., and told the crowd, “I want to be a leader like [Trump] when I get to that Senate seat to show everyone I love America.”

Backed by Trump, a Troubled Georgia Football Legend Eyes a Senate Seat

While Walker remains immensely popular among GOP voters in the state — winning more than 68 percent of the vote in last month’s primary, according to the Associated Press — he’s done so while promoting a string of false claims that have had critics and liberals comparing him to Trump.

In December, Walker’s campaign deleted a false claim that he had graduated from college. In text supporting his 2008 book, it says Walker “finished his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice” at the University of Georgia following his first pro season, according to CNN. Walker acknowledged that he did not graduate from college, saying in a statement to the Journal-Constitution that “life and football got in the way.”

Walker later denied that he made the false claim about his graduation status in an interview with WAGA in Atlanta — delivering a false claim in response to a false claim.

“I never, I never have said that statement,” he said. “Not one time.”

In January, the Daily Beast unearthed a 2020 podcast appearance from Walker, in which he promoted a “mist” that he falsely claimed would “kill any covid on your body,” even though there is no known mist or spray that can prevent covid-19.

“Do you know, right now, I have something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from covid as you walk through this dry mist?” Walker told conservative host Glenn Beck in August 2020. “As you walk through the door, it will kill any covid on your body. EPA-, FDA-approved.”

Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker promoted a ‘mist’ that he claimed would ‘kill any covid on your body’

In March, Walker questioned evolution during an address at a Georgia church, asking why apes still exist if humans have evolved from them. Even though humans share a common ancestor that lived about 10 million years ago, they did not evolve from chimpanzees or any other great apes that are living today, and are now on different evolutionary tracks.

“At one time, science said man came from apes. Did it not?” Walker asked Chuck Allen, lead pastor of Sugar Hill Church.

Allen replied, “Every time I read or hear that, I think to myself, ‘You just didn’t read the same Bible I did.' ”

After hearing the pastor’s answer, Walker responded: “Well, this is what’s interesting, though. If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”

Senate candidate Herschel Walker questions evolution, asking, ‘Why are there still apes?’

Then, in early April, CNN reported on how Walker had been overstating his academic achievements for years. In addition to his false claim surrounding his graduation, Walker asserted at least twice in 2017 that he was his high school’s valedictorian and graduated “in the top 1 percent” at Georgia.

“And people say, ‘Herschel, you played football,’ ” he said during a radio interview that year. “But I said, ‘Guys, I also was valedictorian of my class. I also was in the top 1 percent of my graduating class in college.’ ”

There is no evidence that Walker was valedictorian, and the reference was eventually removed from his campaign site. Mallory Blount, a spokeswoman for the Walker campaign, defended the candidate in a statement at the time, saying, “There is not a single voter in Georgia who believes that whether Herschel graduated at the ‘top of his class’ or as Valedictorian 40 years ago has any bearing on his ability to be a great United States Senator.”

Democrats say the falsehoods demonstrate Walker’s unsuitability for the Senate.

“Every report and every scandal that emerges about Herschel Walker reinforces that he is not who he says he is, is not ready to represent the people of Georgia, and cannot be trusted to serve Georgians in the U.S. Senate,” said Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Critics have also questioned claims surrounding his business background. Months after the AP reported on how Walker’s business records showed “exaggerated claims of financial success” and a history of alarming associates with “unpredictable behavior,” Walker made false claims regarding the earnings and size of his chicken business, Renaissance Man Food Services, according to the Daily Beast.

Walker talked about his alleged time with law enforcement at least four times between 2000 and 2019, the Journal-Constitution reported.

As the news of the GOP candidate’s latest claim spread online, critics were quick to compare him to Trump.

“He may literally be the only person who lies more than Trump,” tweeted CNN analyst and attorney Bakari Sellers, a former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Morgan told The Post that he could not remember a time when someone like Walker promoted being an “honorary deputy,” noting that he’s only heard of people using the title to try to get out of traffic tickets. When asked why the Georgia Senate candidate is pointing to this honorary title as his connection to law enforcement, Morgan laughed and said he did not have a good reason.

“You can’t carry a firearm and you have no authority to make an arrest,” he said of the title. “It is what it is, which is nothing.”

Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.