The U.S. Senate race in Georgia was upended Monday after the Daily Beast published an explosive report claiming to have evidence that pro-life Republican Herschel Walker paid for his girlfriend's abortion more than a decade ago.
Walker, a football legend in the state, has vehemently denied the report and said he intends to sue the Daily Beast for defamation. He called the story a "flat-out lie" and a "hatchet job," and a lawyer for his campaign accused the Daily Beast of targeting "black conservatives" with anonymously sourced reporting.
The Daily Beast report cites a woman who asked to remain anonymous for her privacy. She is a registered Democrat who claims to have conceived a child with Walker in 2009. The woman says she aborted the child, purportedly at Walker's urging, and that Walker reimbursed her for the expense.
The woman supported her claims by providing the Daily Beast with a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a "get well" card signed by Walker, and a bank deposit receipt that shows an image of a signed $700 personal check from Walker. She says there is a $125 difference between the check and the receipt because she "ballparked" the cost of an abortion after Googling the procedure and added estimated travel expenses and recovery costs. The Daily Beast also spoke with friends of the woman who supported her claims.
Walker is a pro-life Republican who supports a national ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and has stated there are "no exceptions in my mind." He says the Daily Beast story is false.
"This is a flat-out lie - and I deny this in the strongest possible terms," Walker said in a statement released Monday.
"This is another repugnant hatchet job from a democrat activist disguised as a reporter who has obsessively attacked my family and tried to tear me down since this race started," he added. Walker accused the Daily Beast reporter of harassing his friends with questions about his illegitimate children and of using anonymous sources "to further slander me."
"I'm not taking this anymore. I planning [sic] to sue the Daily Beast for this defamatory lie. It will be filed tomorrow morning," Walker said.
The October surprise accusations have roiled what was already considered a highly competitive race between Walker and incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Walker, who was recruited to run for Senate and endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has been within the margin of error in several head-to-head polls against Warnock in September. He has faced attacks from the left over his controversial background and self-admitted struggles with mental health issues.
In contrast stands Warnock, a progressive reverend who is unapologetically pro-choice and opposes restrictions on abortion. The Democratic incumbent has painted Walker as too unstable to represent Georgia in the Senate, though Republicans have brought up domestic violence allegations leveled against Warnock by his ex-wife.
Republicans in Georgia are panicking over the Daily Beast story and the reaction from members of Walker's family. His 19-year-old son Christian Walker, an outspoken conservative, ripped his father on social media and accused him of "lying" about his past on the campaign trail.
“Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one,” Christian Walker tweeted. “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."
Atlanta-based conservative radio host Erick Erickson shared that GOP sources he's in touch with are despairing over the latest attacks on Walker, which he said might be a "KO" in the Senate race.
The election in Georgia will be pivotal in determining which party controls the Senate next year. Warnock, a Democrat representing a typically Republican southern state, was viewed as a vulnerable candidate and his seat a good pick-up opportunity for the GOP. But the latest allegations against Walker may turn off enough pro-life Republicans to give Warnock the edge he needed to win reelection.