Fact Check: Herschel Walker’s False and Misleading Recent Claims


Washington
CNN

Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for the US Senate in Georgia, has run a campaign filled with false and misleading claims.

Walker again faces questions about his veracity. The latest round of investigations was prompted by a report by The Daily Beast that the anti-abortion conservative had paid for a woman’s abortion in 2009. CNN has not independently confirmed the story, and Walker has vehemently denied it.

However, Walker has undermined his credibility in the past. In 2020 and 2021, he was a serial pusher of false claims about the 2020 election. In the years prior, he repeatedly exaggerated his academic record and business record. And in 2022, Walker has made inaccurate claims about a variety of topics — once even falsely claiming that he never made a false claim, which he had actually made on camera at least twice.

Walker’s pattern has continued in the late stages of his midterm race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. Here’s a fact-check of five of the claims he made in September and early October.

Walker’s campaign declined to comment on specific allegations. Walker campaign spokesman Will Kiley responded to a request for comment by insulting this reporter.

Walker’s campaign has aired a fall campaign ad in which Walker looks into the camera and claims Warnock “called the police ‘thugs’ and then cut their funding.”

Facts first: Walker’s claim about Warnock and police funding is false; Warnock has not voted to cut police funding and does not support the idea of ​​cutting police funding. And Walker’s second claim leaves out critical context: Warnock’s use of the word “thug” in a 2015 church sermon was not a broad insult about police officers in general. On the contrary, Warnock spoke about violent policing in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Walker ad does not provide a source for the false claim that Warnock voted to cut police funding, even in the small text typical of campaign ads, so CNN asked Walker’s campaign three times to explain what he was referring to . The campaign never explained. The website PolitiFact also found no evidence for Walker’s claim and received no explanation from his campaign.

You can read the full context of Warnock’s “beating” remark here. As CNN reported in 2020, when the remark was also made against him by Republicans, Warnock, an Atlanta pastor, made the remark while speaking in 2015 about a new Justice Department report that had found that Ferguson’s police force and municipal court system had routinely violated the constitutional rights of black residents. Warnock claimed that “sometimes you can wear the colors of the state and act like a thug” and that the police force in Ferguson had displayed “a kind of gangster and thug mentality.”

Republicans also tried during the 2020 election to tie Warnock to the “defund the police” movement. But Warnock was clear that he did not support the idea of ​​defunding the police; he called instead to “reimagine policing.” As a senator in 2021, Warnock joined other Democrats in seeking an increase in funding for the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, a grant program for law enforcement agencies. He also voted in 2021 for the US Pandemic Relief Act, which, among many other things, has given at least a hundred million dollars to law enforcement.

This year, Warnock co-sponsored a bipartisan Senate bill that would direct the federal government’s COPS office to provide up to $250 million in grants over five years to local law enforcement agencies that employ fewer than 200 full-time officers. The agencies would be allowed to use the money to pay signing bonuses and retention bonuses to officers, as well as for various types of officer training. The bill was supported by law enforcement groups, including the national fraternal order, and it passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has previously highlighted the fact that Warnock and Democratic colleagues voted in August to reject a police-related Republican amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping climate, tax and health care bill. That change would have sent the bill back to the Judiciary Committee instead of passing it on the day Democrats planned to increase funding aimed at ensuring that “law enforcement addresses crime” and that “prosecutors address violent crime by ensuring appropriate custody of dangerous criminals.” But voting against a vague proposal to increase law enforcement funding — a proposal that would have derailed the speedy passage of a painstakingly negotiated piece of legislation — is clearly not the same as voting to cut police funding.

In a September interview with black media outlet Rolling Out, Walker said that while some people only talk about him in reference to his past as a football star, “I’ve been very fortunate in the business world. I’ve been very fortunate in my military, um, career – that I did a lot of things in the military.”

Facts first: Walker has never served in the military. Instead, he has worked as a paid spokesperson for a for-profit company that runs a mental health program for service members and veterans. While Walker has visited numerous military bases discussing mental health and other issues, it is misleading at best—and arguably just plain false—to refer to a military “career” or to claim he did anything “in the military.”

Walker has a history of overstating his role in the Patriot Support mental health program, as The Associated Press reported in May — falsely claiming in both late 2021 and early 2022 that he was the person who started the program.

This Walker claim to roll out was earlier noted on Twitter by Daily Beast reporter Roger Sollenberger.

In various public remarks in September, Walker claimed that Warnock has “voted to put men in women’s sports.”

Facts first: Walker’s claim is not true: Warnock never “voted to put men in women’s sports.” Rather Warnock voted in 2021 against a Republican proposal that would have banned the education funding in the US rescue plan pandemic relief bill from going to states, colleges and local education agencies that allow “any student whose biological sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity intended for women or girls.”

In other words, this was a vote on a proposal to financially penalize states and schools for their policies on transgender athletes. Leaving aside Walker’s claim that transgender women are “men,” voting against such a proposal simply isn’t the same as voting to “put men in women’s sports” in the first place.

When Rolling Out asked Walker about his fake 2019 innuendo that he had been an FBI agent, Walker said, “I’m so glad you brought it up. Because if you watch the tape when I talk about the FBI, you can clearly see that I was joking. But I have trained with the FBI…”

Facts first: It’s possible a listener might have thought Walker was joking when he strongly suggested he had been an FBI agent, but Walker certainly didn’t make it clear — and in June 2022, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper reported Walker’s comment of having been an FBI agent as a serious claim, Walker’s campaign did not tell the newspaper that he was joking. When Walker told the same story in a speech in 2017, he also claimed to have an “FBI clearance.”

Here’s the context for Walker’s comments from 2019. In a speech to members of the military in which Walker discussed his battle with mental illness, he told a story about a time when he had been so angry with someone that he grabbed a gun and drove set off with the intention of killing the man, which reassured. only down when you see a bumper sticker about love for jesus. Walker said he had worked for law enforcement, then added, “You all didn’t know that either, did you? I spent time at Quantico, up at the FBI training school. Didn’t you know I was an agent? I probably shouldn’t tell you all that. You don’t care. Anyway – hey, I’ve been in law enforcement before. So I grab my gun…”

Walker smiled at various points in these remarks, but at no point did he say he was joking; it certainly wasn’t obvious he was serious about spending time at the FBI training school, but then he joked immediately afterward when he said he’d been an agent. And in a speech to service members two years prior, previously noted by PolitiFact, Walker told the same story about wanting to kill a man, saying at the time, “I grabbed my gun. Because I worked in law enforcement. People don’t know : I got my FBI clearance. I went to Quantico.”

When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in June about Walker’s comment about having been an agent, the Walker campaign pointed the paper to a 1989 article in which Walker said he spent a week at the FBI’s training academy in Quantico at the end of his football career. career – an allegation the FBI has not commented on.

Walker has never held a job in law enforcement. He has published a map shows that at some point after 2004 he was named an “honorary agent” and “special deputy sheriff” in Cobb County, Georgia, titles that do not confer arrest authority.

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