Herschel Walker and the Perils of Celebrity Candidates

More ugly revelations about the football hero turned politician.

The Daily Beast reports on the latest revelation demonstrating that Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for US Senate from Georgia, is not who he has portrayed himself since coming to national prominence as a star running back four decades ago.

A day after The Daily Beast broke the news that Herschel Walker had a secret 10-year-old son he fathered out of wedlock, the football star-turned-politician confirmed late Wednesday night that he has yet another son with a different woman that the public doesn’t know about—as well as a daughter that he had in college.

The revelations come in the middle of Walker’s competitive race to unseat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and after many public comments Walker has made about absent fathers in the Black community.

“I want to apologize to the African-American community, because the fatherless home is a major, major problem,” Walker said in a September 2020 interview, adding in a December 2019 interview with Diamond and Silk that men need to go into neighborhoods and become “fathers of those fatherless” children.

The second of Walker’s previously undisclosed sons was born to a woman living in Texas and is now 13 years old. Walker’s other son is 10, and Christian Walker, who has played a major role in Herschel’s political efforts and public persona, is 22.

In Christian’s case, Walker has played an extremely active role in his life. In the case of Walker’s 10-year-old, the football star seems to have played very little role. In this latest case with his 13-year-old son, Walker seems to have been present on at least two occasions, according to social media photos. But it’s unclear how active he’s been beyond that.

(The Daily Beast is withholding the name of both younger sons and their mothers out of privacy concerns.)

In a statement issued to The Daily Beast, Walker confirmed that the 13-year-old son is his child. The campaign also supplied a form that Walker filled out in 2018 in order to be appointed to President Donald Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. Walker listed the child’s name and age, as well as the names and ages for Christian, the 10-year-old son, and an adult daughter whom Walker fathered when he was around 20 years old.

“I have four children. Three sons and a daughter. They’re not ‘undisclosed’—they’re my kids,” Walker said in his statement. “I support them all and love them all. I’ve never denied my children, I confirmed this when I was appointed to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, I just chose not to use them as props to win a political campaign. What parent would want their child involved in garbage, gutter politics like this?”

Walker said any suggestion that he was hiding his children was outrageous. “I can take the heat, that’s politics,” Walker said, “but leave my kids alone.”

Star athletes fathering children out of wedlock is, alas, not unheard of. And Walker does seem to have been more active than many in both offering financial support and being present. Still, the notion that he has been open and honest about this is laughable.

Walker is a few years older than me, so his star turn at Georgia took place while I was in high school. While I wasn’t a Georgia fan, I watched a lot of his game during that Heisman Trophy-winning season and rooted for him in the national championship game against Penn State. While I rooted for the Birmingham Stallions in the days of the original USFL, I watched most of Walker’s games with the New Jersey Generals. And, when that league collapsed, I rooted for him when he joined my Dallas Cowboys alongside Tony Dorsett. And, of course, the epic trade that sent Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a whole bevy of draft picks was a key factor in the Cowboys winning three Super Bowls between 1992 and 1995. I even rooted for him on the Olympic bobsledding team.

Throughout all of this, Walker scrupulously portrayed himself as a model citizen who overcame great odds to achieve success. He came across as a genuinely good guy and the press, for the most part, went along with it.

That he’s now the nominee of the Family Values/Christian conservative party, running against a minister who seems very much the embodiment of the values Walker espouses but has largely failed to live up to, is both ironic and bizarre. That there’s a better than even chance he’ll prevail, despite all of these revelations—-to say nothing of the fact that he’s unqualified by experience or preparation to serve in the Senate—is disheartening.

Americans love their celebrities, though, and sports heroes perhaps most of all. But the price of cashing in on that celebrity to run for political office is much greater scrutiny that will, in many cases, tarnish one’s image considerably.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2022, Sports, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m sure his evangelical base will forgive him. Morality is just a club to beat other people. But it may complicate Walker’s media strategy going forward. He’ll have to drop all that ‘I’m one of the good ones,’ crapola and go straight-up negative. As long as he’s attacking a liberal he could strangle puppies and Republicans won’t care.

    19
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That he’s now the nominee of the Family Values/Christian conservative party, running against a minister who seems very much the embodiment of the values Walker espouses but has largely failed to live up to, is both ironic and bizarre.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…. gasp…. wheeze…. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA….

    10,000 unemployed comedians James, and here you are giving it away for free.

    9
  3. MarkedMan says:

    In a way this is an illustration of the perils of inductive vs. deductive reasoning. In Walker’s world, he has been able to maintain that “good moral man, pillar of the community” role despite having these things in his background. And that has gone on for years. He experiences that and says, inductively, “This is the way I am and have been and I’ve been able to maintain my persona, therefore I will continue to be able to maintain it, unchallenged.” Of course, deductively:
    1) Retired sports figures receive little scrutiny and endless adulation and enablement
    2) Politicians receive major scrutiny
    Therefore:
    3) A retired sports figure who is transitioning to being a politician is in for a world of hurt…

    5
  4. Kathy says:

    So he pleads the media leave his kids alone, just like he does.

    Irony is dead and cremated.

    18
  5. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    This story reminds me that Lauren Boebert is currently accused by American Muckrakers PAC (the group that brought down Madison Cawthorn) of having had two abortions and of having been an escort. These allegations appear totally unsubstantiated, but I was more interested in the reaction of one of her defenders: “I wouldn’t care if she had.”

    Meaning: Boebert is on God’s side now, so her past doesn’t matter. Same with Walker.

    6
  6. gVOR08 says:

    A high school sports star is the subject of adulation and exempt from the rules.
    As a college star he’s the subject of adulation, exempt from the rules, and pretty much gets a pass on class work.
    As a pro star he’s the subject of adulation, exempt from the rules, and gets rich.
    As a retired pro star he’s rich, is the subject of adulation, and still exempt from most of the rules.
    And surprise, he turns out to be a self absorbed asshat. How many time have we heard this story?

    10
  7. DK says:

    As I’ve said here multiple times, Warnock will defeat Walker, who is already not that popular as a Georgia politician and who is going to be buried under increasingly bad oppo research. This is the tip of the iceberg.

    Abrams…meh. She’s in trouble.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I could have used scare quotes, I guess, but this is both how Republicans have marketed themselves for decades and how they see themselves. The irony that they’ve nominated a serial liar who has repeatedly produced children outside wedlock—and are running him against a preacher who seems to make a real attempt to live the life he preaches—is strong.

    5
  9. Argon says:

    I don’t know about celebrity candidates but stupid celebrity football players and coaches definitely have a poor record in recent times.

  10. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    This is very true. For an athlete, the adulation starts when he’s a young teen. He’s treated as if he’s a god, and above the laws that apply to lesser humans, so he acts that way.

    The crap football players got away with in my high school was unbelievable. One of them thought it was acceptable to trip kids on crutches. Did he ever pay for it? Nope. The male high school teachers kowtowed to him.

    1
  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “I have four children. Three sons and a daughter. They’re not ‘undisclosed’—they’re my kids,” Walker said in his statement. “I support them all and love them all.

    Because I’m cynical and am not awestruck in any meaningful way by his “achievements,” I will note in passing that he doesn’t say that he raised any of them. Maybe that’s not significant, all y’all can decide that for yourselves.

    …I just chose not to use them as props to win a political campaign. What parent would want their child involved in garbage, gutter politics like this?”

    Ted Cruz comes to mind. He’s used his kids as props in campaign events, IIRC (when he’s not abandoning them in snowstorms at least 🙁 ).

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: “So he pleads the media leave his kids alone, just like he does.”

    Ouchies! That’s gonna leave a mark, Kathy. 😀

    2
  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    …and are running him against a preacher who seems to make a real attempt to live the life he preaches—is strong.

    Yes, it is a touch ironic. If only voters cared. It could even lead to changes in how the GQP functions. But voters don’t care. Most of them don’t even show up for primaries.

    2
  14. Slugger says:

    All you need to know about the religion of Republicans is that they admire Donald Trump.

    3
  15. Jc says:

    In the 80’s it may have been something. Nowadays it’s nothing. It’s amazing what gets swept under the rug today. With so much scandal, it’s just not juicy enough. James a Cowboys fan…that hurts. Too many already in NVA lol.

  16. Gustopher says:

    In Christian’s case, Walker has played an extremely active role in his life. In the case of Walker’s 10-year-old, the football star seems to have played very little role.

    This is probably a good thing for the 10 year old, if we look at how Christian turned out.

    Pride month is starting so I’d like to announce to everyone that I’m NOT gay. I’m attracted to men but I refuse to identify with the rainbow cult. I don’t believe in indoctrinating children. My whole identity isn’t my sexuality. And I don’t go to gay bars. Don’t call me gay.

    2
  17. Gustopher says:

    That there’s a better than even chance he’ll prevail, despite all of these revelations—-to say nothing of the fact that he’s unqualified by experience or preparation to serve in the Senate—is disheartening.

    Repeated blows to the head may be just the experience and preparation that Republican voters are looking for. He speaks in word salad as often as not, in the grand tradition of Sarah Palin.

    It’s likely why he skipped the primary debates. By nature, nurture or repeated head trauma, the man is a blithering idiot. I would expect that a campaign manager would prefer to keep the blithering a little quiet, limiting it only to the blithering aficionados.

    4
  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Repeated blows to the head may be just the experience and preparation that Republican voters are looking for.

    Good point. Hadn’t thought of that.

    1
  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m reminded of the “Roy Cohn is not a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man who fucks around with guys.” line from Angels in America.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Maybe this is what the attraction of running for office for The Rock (and to The Rock’s fans for that matter). Lotta head trauma there.

    1
  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Maybe this is what the attraction of running for office for The Rock

    I can’t speak to his head trauma, but putting Dwayne Johnson in the same category as Hershel Walker (check out 0:20 to 1:03 on the clip) is just wrong.

  22. DK says:

    @Gustopher:

    Pride month is starting so I’d like to announce to everyone that I’m NOT gay.

    He literally hit me up on Grindr two months ago, but okay.

    4
  23. Michael Cain says:

    Does Georgia do any sort of debate for Senate candidates where actual policy questions are asked?

  24. KM says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Technically MSM (men who have sex with men) is a term that he could identity as. The problem with it is that it separates actions from intentions and personality, thus pretending one has nothing to do with the other. One is conceived as social identity and the other practical actions but it’s really, really difficult to separate them as both inform the other either positively or negatively. Kinda like “I worship only Jesus but I’m not Religious in any way since they’re all cults” – makes sense on paper but in the real world it doesn’t fly. Being “not-gay” MSM doesn’t circle you back to cis-hernormativity. Guys on the DL usually are in denial and trying to keep up specific ingrained social standards, not utilizing a different identity on the spectrum they are comfortable in.

    It’s only polite to call him by his chosen designation, even if it’s BS though. Man’s MSM and that’s OK – he just needs to keep the hate (self or otherwise) away from everybody else as we ain’t into that.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DK: @KM: Years ago, a student asked me if I thought there was a difference between “having sex” and “making love.” Maybe he’s making the same/a similar distinction.

  26. DK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Mmm hmmm. Christian Walker is gay af. Not just gay. Super gay.

    I’ve interacted with him (hilariously) on the gay apps, and he lives not far from me. The gay community in West Hollywood-Hollywood-West LA is very fraternity row, as in everybody is one person removed from everybody else.

    He gay.

    1
  27. Scott O says:

    @MarkedMan: “ check out 0:20 to 1:03 on the clip”
    You got my curiosity up but both links go to the same video.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: That’s not irony James, it’s a full embrace of blatant hypocrisy as a party brand.