Within hours of the Journal-Constitution’s report, the account’s profile picture had been changed and Walker had called off the event despite initially standing by Viviano-Langlais.
On Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign defended the image as being “clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic.”
“Herschel unequivocally opposes anti-semitism and bigotry of all kinds,” the spokeswoman told the Journal-Constitution. By 3 p.m. Eastern time, however, the spokeswoman said Walker would no longer be attending the event and emphasized his support for the Jewish community.
“Herschel is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community and opposes hatred and bigotry of all forms,” Walker spokeswoman Mallory Blount told The Washington Post. “Despite the fact that the apparent intent behind the graphic was to condemn government vaccine mandates, the symbol used is very offensive and does not reflect the values of Herschel Walker or his campaign.”
Viviano-Langlais, a Texas filmmaker, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The campaign’s walk-back was not enough for the Georgia Democratic Party, which initially accused Walker of defending the symbol “for nothing more than some campaign cash.”
“Herschel Walker defended a swastika, and canceling a fundraiser does not change the fact that he failed to condemn a hateful, anti-Semitic symbol,” Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for the state’s Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Walker, a former National Football League running back whose career was bookended with stints with the Dallas Cowboys, has refused to say whether he is vaccinated. He officially received former president Donald Trump’s endorsement in September, months after Trump first raised the possibility that the former University of Georgia star could run a strong campaign against Sen. Raphael G. Warnock, a freshman Democrat.
“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?” Trump said in a March statement. “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL.”
When her Twitter profile still featured the image, Viviano-Langlais shared an invitation to the fundraiser for Walker, which she was set to co-host. Tickets started at $500 per person, while VIP access — featuring a photo opportunity with Walker — was going for $5,800 a person.
Viviano-Langlais has hosted anti-vaccine events in Texas, including a March party celebrating the end of a mask mandate imposed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The event featured a bonfire — for masks.
The cancellation of this weekend’s fundraiser may not be much of a setback for Walker — his campaign is off to a fast start, drawing in $3.7 million since it was first announced five weeks ago, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The image of a swastika formed by syringes has led to controversy in other parts of the country. In Arizona, Kelly Townsend, a Republican state senator, dismissed criticism from the state chapter of the Anti-Defamation League after she tweeted an image of a Nazi flag made up of needles.
“Learn your history,” Townsend tweeted back at the organization.