Republican Herschel Walker's campaign deleted a false claim that he graduated from the University of Georgia hours after it was posted on a website promoting his U.S. Senate bid.
The former football star's campaign removed the reference that he "graduated from UGA with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice" late Thursday after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution inquired about the claim.
It's a falsehood that has proliferated elsewhere, including in an online biography advertising Walker's book, at a campaign rally for his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, and even during his introduction this year at a congressional hearing.
Walker released a statement to the newspaper acknowledging he did not graduate from college.
"I was majoring in criminal justice at UGA when I left to play in the USFL my junior year," Walker said, referring to the professional football league. "After playing with the New Jersey Generals, I returned to Athens to complete my degree, but life and football got in the way."
The false claims about Walker's degree are lodged in a range of web pages, including his Amazon author site, his Speaker Booking Agency page and his New Georgia Encyclopedia entry.
Walker was introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, as a UGA graduate who earned a criminal justice degree at a February U.S. House subcommittee hearing on reparations. And a Republican activist welcomed him to the stage at a November campaign rally in Augusta by highlighting his "bachelor's degree."
In both instances, Walker didn't correct the record.
The same false claim showed up on a redesigned campaign website that debuted earlier this week and included a lengthy "About Herschel" section along with several pages of policy stances.
Walker, a political newcomer with high name recognition from his playing days, became the instant Republican favorite when he entered the Senate race in August with former President Donald Trump's blessing.
He faces several GOP rivals, including Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, military veteran Kelvin King and former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler. The nominee will challenge Warnock, Georgia's first Black U.S. senator, in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
"We need leaders in Washington who tell the truth. Trick play artists are a dime a dozen," Black said. "This is another reason Herschel Walker would lose to Warnock. The list is long and, sadly, growing."
The former pro athlete is far from the only prominent Georgia politician who didn't graduate from college. The list of recent notable state officials includes former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel.
Walker, who owns a chicken distribution business, said in the statement he has encouraged other athletes to complete their degrees.
"Thankfully, God opened doors which allowed me to have some great opportunities and to provide for my family," he said.
This story first appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.