When Herschel Walker’s campaign aides approached him this winter to discuss whispers that Walker had a secret child, the Georgia GOP’s Senate candidate told his campaign the rumors were false.
Walker’s aides already knew he was lying.
They had expected him to lie, and had obtained documents in advance of that conversation verifying that Walker did indeed have another child, The Daily Beast has learned. They handed the documents to him, and after some more back and forth, Walker finally admitted it was true. His aides asked if there were any other children they needed to know about. Walker insisted this was it.
When the Daily Beast learned about the existence of that 10-year-old child in June and went to the campaign for comment, campaign manager Scott Paradise prepared a statement. But first, he went to Walker with a question: Be honest—are there any other kids?
No, Walker said.
Paradise then put out a statement insisting that Walker—who at that point had only publicly acknowledged one child, his adult son, Christian—was “proud of his children.”
“To suggest that Herschel is ‘hiding’ the child because he hasn’t used him in his political campaign is offensive and absurd,” Paradise said in a statement.
The very next day, The Daily Beast reached out again, asking about yet another undisclosed child, a 13-year-old. The campaign approached Walker and asked again. This time, he acknowledged the teen was his.
The campaign verified that the 13-year-old was Walker’s son, and that he had yet another child—a daughter from his college days about 40 years ago.
This account of Walker lying to his own campaign about his children comes from a closely connected adviser and was verified by communications that the source turned over to The Daily Beast. We are not quoting from the messages out of concern that they could potentially expose the source’s identity.
The communications reveal a campaign and a candidate in chaos.
Emails and texts show advisers discussing how they don’t trust Walker—both to tell the truth to them and to handle campaign events properly—and harboring concerns that he isn’t mentally fit for the job.
He spouts falsehoods “like he’s breathing,” this adviser said—so much so that his own campaign stopped believing him long ago.
“He’s lied so much that we don’t know what’s true,” the person said, adding that aides have “zero” trust in the candidate. Three people interviewed for this article independently called him a “pathological liar.”
The Walker campaign declined comment.
Walker has, in fact, racked up a staggering record of falsehoods. He has claimed he was a trained FBI agent and worked for law enforcement, neither of which is true. He has told a preposterous series of lies about his academic record—forcing his campaign to delete claims from his official bio. He has grossly overstated his business success. He has falsely taken credit for founding a veterans support program. And, most recently, he claimed that former President Donald Trump had never said the 2020 election was stolen.
The campaign source painted a picture of an operation that for months has been at the mercy of a volatile, deceitful candidate.
“A campaign’s worst nightmare,” the source said. “It’s like a shitshow on a train in the middle of a wreck.”
But if the campaign is headed for a disaster, the Republican Party appears to be in the dark about just how bad it is.
In conversations with GOP higher-ups, senior Walker campaign aides have held back on their ongoing struggles with containing, directing, and cleaning up after Walker—even if, internally, they believe he’s a serious liability, according to this source who is familiar with those conversations.
University of Georgia Bulldogs’ running back Herschel Walker #34 poses for the camera in front of Lovett Stadium in 1981. Herschel Walker was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Focus On Sport
The revelations come at a critical time. The national party—with the all-important blessing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)—has lined up behind Walker after his easy primary win last month. The GOP is now investing in major political and fundraising operations across The Peach State.
Many establishment Republicans were lukewarm on Walker from the jump. When the first reports broke last summer detailing Walker’s checkered personal history, influential GOP figures balked. Some hoped that “somebody else” would take over the closely watched race, which will likely determine which party controls Congress heading into the 2024 presidential election.
“Some of it’s pretty bad, obviously: physical abuse and pulling a gun on his wife, if that’s true,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Politico last July, adding, “I’d prefer to have somebody else.”
(Walker has denied these claims.)
But the skeptics couldn’t stave off the MAGA-fueled boost Walker got as Trump’s handpicked candidate. The two men have been friends since the 1980s, when Trump showcased the phenom running back as a main attraction in his NFL knock-off, the USFL. And with Trump’s early endorsement last September, the popular athlete was quickly out of reach, quickly going dollar-for-dollar against Democratic incumbent opponent Sen. Raphael Warnock, the top fundraiser in Congress. By April, Cornyn had forked over his personal endorsement.
ATHENS, GA—Heisman Trophy winner and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally on May 23, 2022.
Megan Varner/Getty Images
The party now appears all-in. When The Daily Beast recently asked Scott, the NRSC chair, whether he felt his organization had failed to vet Walker, Scott called him a “good candidate” and predicted a win.
But while NRSC contacts have been checking in with Walker advisers over the last several months, the campaign source said, staffers haven’t been forthright about the internal turmoil.
Donors are jumping ship, the campaign source said, pointing to Home Depot founder and GOP megadonor Bernie Marcus, who has already contributed more than a million dollars to a pro-Walker super PAC. According to the source, Marcus recently told a top Republican fundraiser that he doesn’t feel comfortable going through with another planned seven-figure gift in light of the revelations about the children.
The Daily Beast reached out to Marcus for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply.
While those revelations may have taken backers by surprise, they weren’t news to the campaign.
Aides have secretly derided Walker for months, according to this person and internal communications seen by The Daily Beast. They have ridiculed his intelligence. They fear his mood swings and instability. And staffers worry he could embarrass himself at any moment, setting the campaign back yet again and burning energy on damage control.
The overriding concern is that the stress and pressures of campaigning—criticism and backlash in particular—might make him “just not mentally stable,” the source said.
But this person noted that the months of bombshell reports about Walker’s trumped-up business record, erratic personal life, and the legions of lies and ludicrous exaggerations have so far clouded the mental health issue in the media.
The strategy now is to keep Walker off television and on script, this person said. “Except he doesn’t listen,” the campaign source said. “He doesn’t take direction, because he comes from a place where he says, ‘I have built myself up in the media for years.’”
In a meandering 40-minute phone interview with The Daily Beast the evening before The Daily Beast reported on his second and third previously undisclosed children, Walker tried to duck the issue more than a dozen times, preferring instead to grill this reporter on topics ranging from gas prices and climate change to the “definition of a woman” and abortion.
Eventually, Walker acknowledged both sons in a statement, in which he stated plainly, “I have four children. Three sons and a daughter.”
(Two people with direct knowledge of the events told The Daily Beast that Walker took a DNA test for the daughter, whom he fathered in college but only met in the mid-2000s.)
Walker’s instinct to lie has shredded the campaign’s trust in its own candidate, according to the adviser and communications reviewed by The Daily Beast. Over the following weeks, the source said, allegations of more children poured in. Most of them were readily dismissed—but one stood out. Because senior staff no longer trust Walker’s denials, the campaign has quietly investigated the anonymous allegation behind the candidate’s back, The Daily Beast has learned.
While staffers often exercise tight control over a candidate’s schedule, in Walker’s case, the reasons behind those efforts appear unique. With Walker, the campaign source said, any public interaction carries enormous risk, which aides try to mitigate with curated public appearances and strict media gatekeeping.
“He screws up on Fox News where people agree with him, so the idea of him taking an adverse interview or interacting with people who don’t agree with him is a non-starter,” the adviser said, likening the prospect to sending him “into the lion’s den.”
Walker’s top staffers bring years of experience to the table, but they struggle to keep him on message and don’t trust Walker to speak coherently, according to communications obtained by The Daily Beast. Aides establish guardrails, but Walker blunders over them.
Currently, Team Herschel is reckoning with three potential debates against Walker’s incumbent opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a number they hope to whittle down to one, the source said—and only if it is on their terms.
The campaign hired a renowned debate coach, who prepped former President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—two men who had their own rhetorical hurdles to clear.
Walker recently called on Reverend Warnock to “name the place and the time” for the debates, and has been champing at the bit since last fall.
Still, several sources in Georgia said that, among the GOP rank and file, Walker’s controversies don’t seem to be making a dent.
Jason Shepherd, a longtime party leader in the state, told The Daily Beast that Republicans aren’t talking about Walker’s secret children, and if they do, it’s to blame the media for “highlighting what many are seeing as a personal issue.”
But when it comes to Walker’s opponent, who himself is involved in a custody dispute, Republicans—including the national party—haven’t been afraid to highlight that issue, accusing the pastor of “ignoring the financial needs of his own children,” despite the fact that Warnock is not accused of evading child support.
(Walker, who boasts publicly about being a good father, has long railed against absentee dads, specifically in the Black community.)
The Walker campaign has recently trained much of its resources on countering the reports of the secret children. The team released its first general election ad on Tuesday, framing Walker as a “uniter,” and aides have been angling for public appearances with his closest family members: his wife, Julie Blanchard Walker; his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman; and his 22-year-old son, Christian Walker—a brash right-winger who profits off of swag promoting his father’s candidacy.
While Julie Walker is a continual presence on the campaign trail, both Grossman and Christian Walker have resisted the campaign’s entreaties in the wake of The Daily Beast reports.
It’s still unclear when Grossman and Christian Walker first knew about the two other sons. Previously, Christian, an aspiring MAGA world influencer who has made campaign appearances with his father, frequently targeted absentee dads in social media rants. The focus of those attacks, however, appeared to shift after the Daily Beast reported his half-brothers.
With just four months until Election Day, it’s unclear whether the Walker campaign and its candidate can right the ship—but it’s not out of the question.
Walker, who grew up poor and shaped himself into one of the most stunning all-around athletes of his era, achieved much of that success through sheer determination. (“Most people who know Herschel believe he willed himself into his current condition,” reads a 1981 New York Times profile.)
So far, Walker and the campaign appear to have run a strong race since he got out of the blocks last August—quickly raising tens of millions of dollars, and coasting through the primary with about two-thirds of the vote.
And while the general election contest against Warnock shows no signs of being anything less than brutal, the campaign, like Walker, is projecting an air of confidence.
“Do we have problems? Yes! Can we solve them? Yes!,” Walker says at the end of his new campaign ad. “Georgia is my family. The United States is my family. So I’m going to fight and take care of them.”
Sam Brodey contributed reporting.
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