Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker defended pulling out a sheriff’s badge during Friday’s closely watched debate in Georgia, telling NBC in an interview that aired Sunday that it was “a legal” but honorary badge from his hometown sheriff’s department.
Walker had pulled out the badge during a discussion about support for the police – in a move that was admonished by debate moderators and led to widespread derision from Democrats.
“This is from my hometown. This is from Johnson County from the Johnson County Sheriff, which is a legal badge,” Walker told NBC’s Kristen Welker in a clip from the interview.
A fact check by CNN found that Walker has never held a job in law enforcement. He has released a card showing that at some point after 2004 he was named an “honorary agent” and “special deputy sheriff” in Cobb County, Georgia — titles that do not carry arrest authority.
The contest between Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is one of the most important Senate races in the country, representing a key state that Democrats must hold to have any chance of retaining control of the Senate next year. The race has recently been rocked by allegations that Walker paid for one woman’s abortion and encouraged her to have another — claims the Republican has repeatedly denied and which CNN has not independently confirmed.
A survey released earlier this month, carried out after the allegations emerged, found Warnock with 52% support among likely voters to 45% for Walker, about the same as in a poll in mid-September.
During Friday’s debate, Walker had accused Warnock of calling officers “names” and causing “morale” to drop, but the Democrat cited a false claim by Walker that he had previously served in law enforcement.
“One thing I have not done is I have not impersonated a police officer and I have never, ever threatened a shootout with the police,” Warnock said, referring to a more than two-decade-old police report in which the Republican discussed exchanging gunfire with police.
“Anyone can joke,” Walker said in the NBC interview, arguing that the badge means he has “the right to work with the police to get things done.”
However, Walker later admitted it was a “badge of honor” and pushed back against the idea, which NBC’s Welker read from a statement from the National Sheriff’s Association, that such badges should be left in a “trophy case.”