The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Christian Walker turns his online influence against his father

Georgia Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Herschel Walker in Forsyth, Ga., on Sept. 28, 2022. (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

The video had all of the hallmarks of a Christian Walker social media post. In it, the unquenchably effusive son of Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker sits in the front seat of his car, gesticulating with enthusiasm and near-shouting his opinion for the benefit of his followers.

“Men,” he exclaimed, “we need you to stop running around, [having sex with] every woman in town. … Stick to your significant others and raise your kids.”

This is a theme of Christian Walker’s: Men should not cheat on their wives and should be present in their children’s lives. The recent allegations involving Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, for example, spurred more than one video from Walker on the subject.

What’s notable about this video, though, is when it was published: July 2021. Before his father announced a run for U.S. Senate. And well before Christian Walker used his modest-but-well-tended online platform this week to blast his father as a hypocrite and a liar shortly after the Daily Beast reported that Herschel Walker had paid for an abortion in 2009.

The Washington Post has not independently confirmed the report, and Herschel Walker is denying it.

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When Herschel Walker announced his candidacy in August 2021, Christian Walker was the only child he was generally known to have had; it has since been revealed that he has three others.

Christian Walker was onboard with his father’s candidacy at the outset, sharing Donald Trump’s endorsement of his father soon after the announcement and posting a video of him embracing Herschel Walker during a campaign event at Mar-a-Lago in December.

What changed, the younger Walker says, is that his father wasn’t forthright about his past. In a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning, Christian Walker explained the shift.

“I did one event last year when we were told he was going to get ahead of his past and hold himself accountable,” the son said. “None of that happened. Everything’s been a lie.”

That was tame compared with the tweets following the Daily Beast report.

“You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to [have sex with] a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence,” Walker wrote on Twitter on Monday evening. “...[H]ow 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.”

You probably noticed a theme here: The record of Christian Walker’s positions is clearly defined thanks to his energetic use of social media. And his prolific use of social media is part of an apparently deliberate effort to establish himself as an online influencer in a largely unfilled niche: conservative, Black and gay. He rose to prominence by criticizing the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, generating an audience in part thanks to ironic or critical commentary in his videos.

This journey is not unique. Embracing right-wing positions — sincerely or not — is a viable path to building an audience, as the New York Times explained in the context of Facebook last year. Trump’s false claims about election fraud powered an ecosystem of social media influence that right-wing voices scrambled to leverage. The magic of the internet is that, if it is leveraged cleverly, an audience can be cobbled together around nearly anything: dressing like animals, analyzing science-fiction television episodes, theorizing about secret satanic plots. It’s an attention gold rush in which there are plenty of hefty nuggets to be mined.

Most of Walker’s posts are centered on whatever the right-wing fury du jour happens to be. A recent series, for example, focused on his move from California to Florida, where he proceeded to tout Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s leadership. In other posts, he leverages his identity to rail against Pride Month or lament the travails of White men — a well-worn path toward appealing to the right.

Walker also has an online shop for a brand called “CANCL,” in which he’s shown wearing both a sweatshirt reading “CANCELLED” and sweatpants reading “CANCEL ME.” He does not balk at contradictions.

It seems likely that his father’s campaign might at one point have thought that his son’s online audience — not huge by the modern standards of influence, but substantial — would be a benefit. As Christian Walker noted Tuesday morning, though, he hasn’t actively promoted his father’s candidacy in recent months, despite, he says, receiving various entreaties to do so. Instead, he has occasionally revisited that theme from his July 2021 video: Men need to take responsibility for their children. Not the sort of message on which Herschel Walker’s campaign wants Republican voters — already iffy on the candidate — to focus.

Christian Walker’s criticism has obviously frustrated his father’s allies. One, speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein, dumped any eventual Herschel Walker loss at his son’s feet — but declined to say it on the record.

Officially, that’s not the campaign line. When The Washington Post reached out about his son’s comments, Herschel Walker’s campaign pointed to a tweet from the candidate.

“I LOVE my son no matter what,” the candidate wrote.

This spurred a furious rejoinder. “If you loved your kids you’d be raising them,” Christian Walker wrote, “instead of running for a senate race to boost your ego.”

This tweet — unlike so many other times when the younger Walker rushed to share his anger — was quickly deleted.

Taylor Lorenz contributed to this report.

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