Washington(CNN) Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for the US Senate in Georgia, has run a campaign littered with false and misleading claims.
Walker is once again facing questions about his truthfulness. The latest round of scrutiny was prompted by a report from The Daily Beast that the anti-abortion conservative had paid for a woman's abortion in 2009. CNN has not independently verified the story, and Walker has vehemently denied it.
Walker, however, has previously undermined his credibility. In 2020 and 2021, he was a serial promoter of false claims about the 2020 election. In the years prior, he repeatedly exaggerated his academic record and business record. And in 2022, Walker has made inaccurate claims about a variety of subjects -- once even falsely claiming he never made a false claim that he had actually made on camera at least twice.
Walker's pattern has persisted in the late stages of his midterm race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. Here is a fact check of five of the claims he has made in September and early October.
Walker's campaign declined to comment on specific claims. Walker campaign spokesperson Will Kiley responded to a request for comment by insulting this reporter.
Walker's campaign has aired a fall campaign ad in which Walker looks into the camera and claims that Warnock "called police 'thugs,' then cut their funding."
Facts First: Walker's claim about Warnock and police funding is false; Warnock has not voted to cut police funding and does not support the idea of cutting police funding. And Walker's other claim leaves out critical context: Warnock's use of the word "thug," in a 2015 church sermon, was not a broad insult about police officers in general. Rather, Warnock was talking about abusive policing in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Walker ad does not provide a source for the false claim that Warnock voted to cut police funding, even in the tiny text typical of campaign commercials, so CNN asked Walker's campaign, three times, to explain what he was referring to. The campaign never explained. The website PolitiFact also found no evidence for Walker's claim and also received no explanation from his campaign.
You can read the full context for Warnock's "thug" remark here. As CNN reported in 2020, when the remark was also wielded against him by Republicans, Warnock, an Atlanta pastor, made the remark while speaking in 2015 about a new Justice Department report that had found that Ferguson's police force and municipal court system had routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black residents. Warnock argued that "you can sometimes wear the colors of the state and behave like a thug" and that police power in Ferguson had displayed "a kind of gangster and thug mentality."
Republicans also tried during the 2020 election to tie Warnock to the "defund the police" movement. But Warnock was clear that he did not support the idea of defunding the police; he called instead to "reimagine policing." As a senator in 2021, Warnock joined other Democrats in seeking an increase in funding for the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, a grant program for law enforcement agencies. He also voted in 2021 for the American Rescue Plan pandemic relief law that has, among many other things, provided at least hundreds of millions of dollars to law enforcement.
This year, Warnock cosponsored a bipartisan Senate bill to direct the federal government's COPS office to provide up to $250 million in grants over five years to local law enforcement agencies that employ fewer than 200 full-time officers. The agencies would be allowed to use the money to pay signing bonuses and retention bonuses to officers, as well as for various kinds of officer training. The bill was backed by law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, and it passed the Senate on unanimous consent.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has previously highlighted the fact that Warnock and Democratic colleagues voted this August to reject a policing-related Republican amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping climate, tax and health care bill. That amendment would have sent the bill back to the Judiciary Committee, rather than passing it that day as Democrats planned, to increase funding for the purpose of ensuring that "law enforcement is addressing crime" and that "prosecutors are addressing violent crime by ensuring the appropriate pretrial detention of dangerous criminals." But voting against a vague proposal to increase law enforcement funding -- a proposal that would have derailed the quick passage of a painstakingly negotiated piece of legislation -- is clearly not the same as voting to cut police funding.
In a September interview with Black media outlet Rolling Out, Walker said that while some people only talk about him in reference to his past as a football star, "I've been very fortunate in the business world. I've been very fortunate in my military, uh, career -- that I was doing a lot of things in the military."
Facts First: Walker has never served in the military. Rather, he has worked as a paid spokesman for a for-profit company that runs a mental health program for servicemembers and veterans. While Walker has visited numerous military bases to discuss mental health and other issues, it's misleading at best -- and arguably just false -- to refer to a military "career" or to claim that he did anything "in the military."
Walker has a history of overstating his role with the Patriot Support mental health program, as The Associated Press reported in May -- falsely claiming in both late 2021 and early 2022 that he was the person who started the program.
This Walker claim to Rolling Out was previously noted on Twitter by Daily Beast reporter Roger Sollenberger.
Facts First: Walker's claim is not true: Warnock has never "voted to put men in women's sports." Rather, Warnock voted in 2021 against a Republican proposal that would have prohibited the education funding in the American Rescue Plan pandemic relief bill from going to states, colleges and local educational agencies that allow "any student whose biological sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity designated for women or girls."
In other words, this was a vote on a proposal to financially punish states and schools because of their policies on transgender athletes. Leaving aside Walker's contention that transgender women are "men," voting against such a proposal is simply not the same as a vote "to put men in women's sports" in the first place.
When Rolling Out asked Walker about his false 2019 insinuation that he had been an FBI agent, Walker said, "I'm so glad you brought that up. Because if you look at the tape, when I talk about the FBI, you can clearly see I was joking. But I have trained with the FBI..."
Facts First: It's possible that some listener might have thought Walker was joking when he strongly suggested he had been an FBI agent, but Walker certainly didn't make that unambiguous -- and in June 2022, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper reported Walker's comment about having been an FBI agent as a serious claim, Walker's campaign didn't tell the newspaper that he was joking. Also, when Walker told the same story in a 2017 speech, he claimed to have an "FBI clearance."
Here's the context for Walker's 2019 comments. In a speech to members of the military, in which Walker discussed his struggle with mental illness, he told a story about a time he had been so angry at someone that he grabbed a gun and drove off with the intention of killing the man, calming down only when seeing a bumper sticker about love for Jesus. Walker said he had worked for law enforcement, then added, "Y'all didn't know that either, did you? I spent time at Quantico, up at the FBI training school. Y'all didn't know I was an agent? I probably shouldn't tell you all that. Y'all don't care. Anyway -- hey I've been in law enforcement before. So I grab my gun..."
Walker smiled at various points in these remarks, but at no point did he say he was joking; it certainly wasn't obvious that he was being serious about spending time at the FBI training school but then joking immediately afterward when he said he had been an agent. And in a speech to servicemembers two years prior, which was previously noted by PolitiFact, Walker told the same story about having wanted to kill a man and that time said, "I grabbed my gun. Because I worked with law enforcement. People don't realize: I got my FBI clearance. I went to Quantico."
When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in June about Walker's comment about having been an agent, the Walker campaign pointed the newspaper to a 1989 article in which Walker said he spent a week at the FBI training academy in Quantico at the tail end of his football career -- a claim the FBI has not commented on.
Walker has never had a job in law enforcement. He has publicized a card showing that he was at some point after 2004 named an "honorary agent" and "special deputy sheriff" in Cobb County, Georgia, titles that do not confer arrest authority.