In the wake of the bombshell report that Herschel Walker allegedly paid for a woman’s abortion after the two conceived a child while they were dating in 2009 and his son’s online condemnation of his father’s behavior, Republicans rushed to defend the Georgia Senate nominee.
Republicans like Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House turned conservative pundit.
But Gingrich’s defense of Walker – who has repeatedly denied the allegations reported by the Daily Beast, which CNN has not independently verified – may have actually done more harm than good.
“I think he’s the most important Senate candidate in the country because he’ll do more to change the Senate just by the sheer presence, by his confidence, by his deep commitment to Christ, by the degree to which he has – you know, he’s been through a long, tough period,” Gingrich said during an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday. “He had a lot of concussions coming out of football, he suffered PTSD.”
This is not a good defense. Not because concussions are not a serious issue, but because seemingly attributing them to problems in Walker’s life is a stretch. (Walker has spoken publicly about his struggles with dissociative identity disorder.)
Walker himself said as much back in 2013 in an interview with USA Today.
“Everybody blames everything on concussions,” Walker said. “The NFL has a problem. It has to determine the difference between (the effects of) concussions and depression. If players lose their money, or wife, or children because of what they’re doing, they’ll act different. But you can’t throw everything on concussions.”
Obviously, we know much more about the impact of concussions today than we did in 2013. But is Gingrich suggesting that Walker should be judged in a different way due to the aftermath of his years of playing football?
John Ellis, a conservative writer, was much more blunt. He wrote this of Walker:
“It’s painful to watch. Walker shouldn’t be a candidate for the United States Senate. He’s not qualified. He won’t know what to do when (and if) he gets to Washington. He’s only on the ticket because former President Trump endorsed him. The moment he becomes a liability for Trump, Trump will cut him loose. So will everyone else. No one cares about Herschel Walker in GOP circles (or in any other circles, for that matter). If Georgia Republicans could replace him on the ballot today, they would do so in a nano-second. They can’t. It’s too late.”
Needless to say, this is not the debate that Walker wants to be having with less than five weeks left in the campaign. That it’s a debate Republicans appear to be having amongst themselves is even more problematic for Walker.
But the “concussion” spin is emblematic of a party that is scrambling to save a candidacy in one of the most critical races in the country – and one that could well decide which party will control the Senate in 2023.
Polling since the abortion allegation became public is scant, so it’s difficult to tell how big of an impact they will have on his race against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. But judging from the desperation of the GOP’s spin, they are very worried.