October Surprise! Ethics Observations As Herschel Walker’s Past Strikes Back…

The first observation is that neither of the surprises should surprise anyone at all. Former NFL football star Herschel Walker is about as vulnerable a political candidate for high office as one can imagine, even in the “Get Trump!” era. I’ve covered much of this already. He’s exaggerated his scholastic achievements, hidden the fact that he has several children conceived without the formality of marriage, admitted bouts with mental illness and a suicide attempt, and vaguely acknowledges committing domestic violence.

Walker has no political experience or relevant achievements that would make him a qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. He’s a local celebrity and has personal charisma; he is also an African-American in a state with a lot of black voters (and football fans). That’s about it. In the United States of America in the Age of the Great Stupid, that can also be enough.

It was irresponsible for the Republican Party to present such a cynically-chosen nominee to the voters of Georgia, incompetent for voters to check his name in the primary, and certifiably stupid for the GOP to store a substantial amount of their chances of taking back control of the Senate on such a shaky vessel.

Yesterday, they all got what they deserved…October Surprise #1 came in the costume of a report published in The Daily Beast. It’s a news aggregating site that works for the Democratic Party, but if the report is factual, that’s irrelevant. The Beast claims that paid for his then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009.  The woman so far wants “to remain anonymous out of privacy concerns.” More on that in a minute. Her story is that she and Walker had “conceived the child while the two were dating, and mutually agreed not to go ahead with the pregnancy,” in the words of the New York Times.  The woman says  Walker, married at the time, reimbursed her for the cost of the abortion.

Walker is a vocal opponent of abortion now. The woman provided the DB with a copy of a $700 check from Walker, a receipt from the abortion clinic and a “Get Well!” card from the candidate. The site published a photo of the card, allegedly with Walker’s signature.

Walker’s response was to tweet a statement  and threaten to file a defamation lawsuit against The Daily Beast. “I deny this in the strongest possible terms,” he said. “It’s disgusting, gutter politics.”

Observations:

  • Unless Walker is an idiot, and he might be, his denial should be legitimate. If the story is true, the response is easy and obvious: Yes, it’s true, I did pay for an abortion 13 years ago, and it has haunted me ever since. I had not thought critically or carefully about the moral, ethical and human implications of killing a fetus in the womb then. I have since, and I realize that I was wrong.  My whole life has been a journey through mistakes and wrongful acts on the way to enlightenment and becoming a better human being and one capable and qualified to represent the people of Georgia. My journey regarding abortion is an important part of that enlightenment.” End of scandal. There is nothing wrong, hypocritical or shameful about a politician changing his or her position over time: look at Barack Obama  and same-sex marriage.
  • However, if Walker is lying about the episode never happening , it is further evidence that he’s both an untrustworthy phony and an idiot. In that case, he should be metaphorical toast.

And O.J. should have been convicted…

  • Anonymous hits on politicians and others like this are no longer given as much credibility as when they were allowed to bring down the Presidential candidacy of Herman Cain, in part because Cain’s response made him look guilty. The tactic has been abused, especially since #MeToo discredited itself. The public, rightfully so, doesn’t like anonymous accusers, and accusations neatly timed to do maximum damage in elections (or confirmation hearings) are generally and justifiably regarded as dirty politics. If Walker can show that the accusation is false, or if the woman never agrees to come forward to have her story tested, this October Surprise could be a dud.

October Surprise #2 is more complex. Christian Walker, Walker’s 33-year-old son, went on a Twitter rampage against his father last night, tweeting,

“Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one. He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it. I’m done…I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us. You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence…I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’ You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.”

Herschel Walker tweeted in response,  “I LOVE my son no matter what.”

Observations:

  • Christian is a “TikTok influencer;” whether than means that he has any influence over Georgia Senate voters is dubious. (Ann Althouse is a TikTok addict!)
  • Humble Talent, the esteemed commenter here who alerted me this morning to the Walker drama, writes in a comment, “I’m torn….On one hand, you should probably support your family, even if it’s only with silence. On the other…. How much support does the family he abandoned owe him?” I think that’s how many voters see this, and how they see family member attacks on politicians generally (and I put George Conway’s Trump-bashing in this category as well, since his attacks came while his wife was a key Trump aide). I’d answer Humble’s conflict this way: they don’t owe him any support, but direct attacks and efforts to hurt him look disloyal, vengeful, spiteful and mean, because they are.
  • The main significance of both “October Surprises” at this point is that they give the news media more ammunition to try to take down Walker to support the Democratic Party.
  • Handling these twin crises for his campaign will show just how capable politically Walker is. In the end, he might benefit from them. It’s a test.

14 thoughts on “October Surprise! Ethics Observations As Herschel Walker’s Past Strikes Back…

  1. As a UGA alumnus I was somewhat familiar with Walker’s ahem, “checkered” post-college background, which had received some regional news coverage over the years. Walker’s public appearances had never engendered admiration of his erudition, so even absent the incidents from his past he had little objective credibility to me as a political candidate. Thus, I viewed his Senate campaign announcement with incredulity. It was a bad miscalculation (if indeed any calculation was performed) to think that his past behavior -even that which he vaguely admits to- would be overlooked in such a critical political race. With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, WTH, GOP? Even if the current dust-up is a total fabrication, he was far from being Senate material, in my book. I understand the raw, sports-hero and identity-based political strategy here, but I surely don’t like it.

  2. It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify supporting Walker on utilitarian grounds.
    On the one hand there is the fate of the nation and on the other, voting for a scoundrel.

    Jack,
    It occurs to me that should you find yourself in need of additional income; writing effective scandal squashing apologies for high profile individuals is always available.

  3. What his son said about Herschel Walker shows, if true, that Herschel Walker is not a suitable candidate for public office. His family have a duty to warn the public about what they know about him, but the family should have told him very early on that they would not support him or if they have no contact with him at all then they should have spoken out early in the campaign in the early stages of the primaries.
    In fact anyone with knowledge of how unsuitable a candidate is has a duty to speak up to warn the public as early as possible so as to give more suitable people a chance to become candidates. Speaking up late is as Jack says completely unethical.

  4. I have no clue who is telling the truth. I do have some questions:

    How can the check for reimbursement be tied to the abortion procedure when he could have written the check to the provider? Writing a check to another woman would raise as many or more questions as one written to a medical group.

    Without any ability to cross examine the witness or challenge the evidence presented we have no way of knowing if the reimbursement was for the abortion or some other medical malady the woman sought financial assistance from Walker.

    Who keeps get well cards for a decade and how do we know it was for this procedure.

    I care little about some washed up sports star but I don’t like late hits. Accepting these stories as factual because of some other less than desirable behaviors is just as much confirmation bias as assuming every horrendous decision Biden makes is due to cognitive decline.

    As for his qualifications to be in the Senate, the Republican voters of Georgia chose him to be their candidate and not the GOP. When the parties decide that they will decide who can run, that will be the day I drop my party affiliation. The Democrats or the Republicans are the collective voice of their constituents. If the local constituents want Billy Bob Moran to be their guy so be it. We ban foreign contributions for politicians and that should be extended to contributions outside the district or state for which they are running. I don’t want my representatives beholden to out of state interests.

  5. OK, so this is totally not relevant to the post at hand, so sue me.

    I’ve been watching the Rangers – Yankees series, which is nearing the end of game 2 (of 4). The Rangers have absolutely been pitching to Aaron Judge, but he just hasn’t been able to hit it out. Everyone else has, it would seem, just not Judge. Baseball’s a funny game.

    Judge will be 4th up in the Yankees 9th, so he might have another at bat, but we have to face the idea that he just might not get it done this year. It happens, but the Yankees have played him and the Rangers have done their part.

    On the other hand both Ruth and Maris waited until the last or next to last game to get their final home runs. We’ll see.

      • Yeah, I still think it’s more likely than not.

        For the record, Judge did get to bat in the 9th (as well as the 8th), and he grounded into the final out of the inning. So he’s something like 2-9 so far in the series, and his triple crown hopes are, most likely, about gone. But we’ll remember 62 home runs forever, regardless, if he can do it.

        For the Rangers, about the only thing one can say about this year, in the final analysis, is that it’s not as bad as last year. They started poorly, but showed a great deal of promise in the middle of the season. However, the last couple months have been a nightmare, and I think they may have just set a club record for losses in 1 or 2 run games.

        Wait ’til next year!

        • 1. He got it! Good. But I hope they remember Roger.
          2. I think the Rangers made progress. They can look at this as a productive season.
          3. Unlike, say, Boston, which had literally everything that could go wrong, go wrong. Easily one of the top worst seasons since the team started winning in 1967. Absolutely wrecked my summer.

  6. So to comment on the actual post, I think also one of the takeaways is that the Democrats are starting to become really worried about the Georgia Senate race, in which Walker has been polling much closer as of late (true in general of Republican candidates recently).

    I certainly cannot know if the first story is true — if it is, then my instinct would be to admit it, say I now know it was a mistake that I regret. I’ve evolved in my thinking on these issues over the years and would do things much differently if it happened now (which it wouldn’t because I’m reformed, blah, blah (yeah, no he can’t actually say this last, but it’s implied)). Basically, what Jack and some others have said. People will forgive mistakes if you are open about them.

    If it is true, given what he said, he ought to be toast. But is there going to be anything other than he said, she said? Swing voters are liable to be skeptical that this woman waited all this time, included almost all the election campaign before coming forward.

    Assuming the items of evidence are genuine (and I’d want proof about the receipt — abortion clinics are not going to be neutral observers), then this woman has been planning for 13 years to ambush Walker. Do you make copies of checks you receive? I’ve received a lot of them over the years, and I deposit them and move on. Even the bank would not have records that old, assuming they had them to start with.

    Walker was married in 2009, right? Was he either stupid or arrogant enough to actually write a check to his mistress?

    Yes, it could all be true and, if so, Walker has done exactly the wrong thing. But if it is not true, I guess he’s done what he needs to do.

  7. Who do I vote for? Do I vote for the candidate whose morality is questionable but who will support the policies I desire? Or do I vote for the candidate who is a bit morally better yet will support the ruinous policies I object to? Who I vote for, is the question.

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