Herschel Walker released a new campaign ad this afternoon, two days into his latest scandal’s news cycle. And for someone who’s denied the paid-abortion allegations in the “strongest possible terms,” the born-again Christian talk is really muddying that story.
“As everyone knows, I had a real battle with mental health. I even wrote a book about it. And by the grace of God, I’ve overcome it,” Walker says in the ad, referencing the memoir he published a decade ago about his struggles with dissociative identity disorder.
It’s the first ad the Georgia Republican Senate candidate has released since the Daily Beast reported Monday that Walker not only urged a former girlfriend to get an abortion back in 2009, the former football star paid for it, too. While the Beast’s reporters corroborated the unnamed ex-girlfriend’s story with witness accounts and receipts, including a signed “get well” card from Walker, the Republican has maintained since the start that the story is a lie. He even threatened to sue the Daily Beast over the piece.
But in the last 24 hours, it seems his tone has shifted mildly. While discussing his efforts to overcome his mental health struggles in the ad, Walker winks at the idea that his opponent, Sen. Ralph Warnock (D-GA), is the one behind his recent bad press.
“Reverend Warnock is running a nasty, dishonest campaign,” he says, as headlines about domestic abuse allegations against him flash in the background, “perfect for Washington.”
He’s courting a very specific crowd with the ad: the redemption language and the ethereal music floating through the background oozes emotional manipulation of an evangelical voter who might be a little bit bothered by these recent abortion allegations. For much of the evangelical community, abortion is murder. He attempted to articulate a similar message during an interview on “Fox and Friends” this morning.
“I’ve been redeemed and I’m going to make this statement here, it’s like they’re trying to bring up my past to hurt me, but they don’t know that bringing up my past only energizes me to go out and fight even harder,” he said. “Right now they’re trying to do anything in their power to take this seat, but they’re not going to take it from Herschel Walker. … I love the Lord Jesus and I got into this race because of my faith because I see what is happening.”
It’s a weird tone to take while also outright denying the allegations from your past. Even Fox News host Brian Kilmeade wasn’t sure what direction Walker was planning to go with the statement.
While it still remains unclear what kind of impact these new allegations will have on the minds and hearts of the average evangelical voter, Republicans and those in the “pro-life” crowd pushing for Walker’s election have made it clear the candidate and his scandalous past are nothing but a vessel to win back the majority.
My colleague Kate Riga articulates the dynamic well here:
The right-wing reaction to the revelation has blown open a dynamic that those who track anti-abortion politics have long known to be true. The party is driven by and beholden to a small, fervent core of anti-abortion activists. And while other Republican stakeholders parrot that group’s language and behavior, for many, the position is more about political expediency than deeply held conviction. That notional religiously rooted belief has given right-wing actors cover to push for abortion restrictions that lead to widespread suffering for women — everything from stymying miscarriage care to forcing women to carry and give birth to babies that have no chance of survival.
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