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Herschel Walker denies a report that he paid for girlfriend's 2009 abortion

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who in his campaign has called for a complete abortion ban without exceptions, is denying a report that he paid for an ex-girlfriend's abortion in 2009. Here he is last night on Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HERSCHEL WALKER: I never asked anyone to get an abortion. I never paid for an abortion. And it's a lie. And I'm going to continue to fight. You know, I tell you, that's what they want. They want this seat. But right now, they've energized me even more.

MARTINEZ: The story was first reported by The Daily Beast. A woman who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons showed reporters there a receipt from an abortion provider and a copy of a check signed by Walker. NPR has no independent confirmation of the story. Politics reporter Sam Gringlas of member station WABE has been covering the story. Sam, The Daily Beast says they've actually seen a $700 check written by Herschel Walker and sent to the woman in the get-well card. Did Walker address that?

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Well, Walker told Fox News that he sends money and get-well cards to a lot of people. On Twitter, he called the story a flat-out lie. And for now, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee has told reporters that they are standing behind him. On Monday night, Walker's opponent, Senator Raphael Warnock, was asked about the story at a Rosh Hashana campaign event, and he reiterated his support for abortion rights.

MARTINEZ: How much of an issue is abortion in this race?

GRINGLAS: It's a big issue. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it has been major. Georgia's governor, Republican Brian Kemp, signed a law in 2019 that bans most abortions after about six weeks in Georgia. It just took effect after the Supreme Court decision this summer. But Walker has actually gone further, explicitly supporting a more stringent national law. And I asked him about his stance in May. And here's what he said.

WALKER: There is no exception in my mind. I can say I believe in life.

GRINGLAS: So no exceptions for...

WALKER: And I do - no exceptions. I believe in life.

GRINGLAS: And while inflation and the economy are top of mind for many voters, this story could certainly drive abortion further into the spotlight.

MARTINEZ: All right, so Walker denies the allegations. Then on Twitter, his son called him out over other aspects of his personal conduct.

GRINGLAS: Yeah, so some of Walker's history has spilled into public view even further as the story broke. His son, who is an outspoken conservative, until now has supported his dad's run, posted a string of really critical tweets, writing, quote, "I'm done." Walker has a track record of exaggerating his business and academic history. He has talked about some of these accusations from his ex-wife of domestic violence, and he cites his struggles with mental illness, saying that he's better now.

MARTINEZ: And it turns out this is one of the closest Senate races out there. Herschel Walker narrowly trails. You mentioned senator - incumbent Senator Warnock. Could these accusations affect the outcome of this race?

GRINGLAS: Well, Herschel Walker sailed to victory in the primary. His support with base Republican voters has been quite enthusiastic. But I've also spent a lot of time lately in Atlanta's suburbs, and I've recently met some voters who will vote Republican for governor and other races, but want to vote for Warnock or the Libertarian or leave the race blank for Senate. This is Republican voter Greg Minor (ph).

GREG MINOR: Troubles me a little bit, you know, some of the allegations against Herschel Walker. So that's someone I should take a closer look at. If it's true, that could change my mind.

GRINGLAS: And remember, Georgia's Senate race determined control of the U.S. Senate last cycle, so the outcome of this election could have national implications.

MARTINEZ: Sam Gringlas, politics reporter for member station WABE - Sam, thanks.

GRINGLAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.