The long knives came out even before former University of Georgia football great Herschel Walker declared his candidacy for a Georgia U.S. Senate seat last week.
The Associated Press pre-announcement story on his campaign story described a "turbulent personal history," and the AP announcement story called it a "troubled personal history" and added details. Days later, a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution spelled out those details.
Last year, the same media outlets were not interested when the ex-wife of then-candidate, now Sen. Raphael Warnock detailed how he ran over her foot and that she had kept quiet about "his reputation" for a long time. Or when his arrest surfaced for interfering in child abuse at an abuse- and health violation-plagued camp he ran in Maryland several years ago.
The difference, of course, is that Walker is a Republican and Warnock is a Democrat.
We have no dog in the hunt in the Georgia GOP primary race but thought it might be instructive to check out the former Bulldog running back's mentions in Chattanooga newspapers since the end of his playing career in 1998. They offer insight both to the "troubled personal history" and humanity Walker has shown.
— Picking winners and losers: Walker made his Republican leanings known at least as early as 2002 when he backed then-candidate and eventual U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in his Georgia race against incumbent Democrat Sen. Max Cleland. In 2014, he backed eventual loser Jack Kingston against soon-to-be Sen. David Perdue in the Georgia Senate GOP runoff. Walker also supported incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in her primary battle against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins in 2020. Loeffler would go on to win the primary but lose to Warnock.
— Dipping a toe in racial issues, 2003: "Today I wish things would change a little bit," Walker said referring to the tradition of his former Johnson County High School in Wrightsville, Ga., of holding separate Black and white proms. "This world is changing so much. Coming after the war [in Iraq] we just had, I think people can see we are a country, we are together. It takes all of us to make anything beautiful."
— Paid appearance platitudes: "People need to take every negative and turn it into a positive" (2004, Unaka District of the Boy Scouts of America reception); "Life will knock you down. But it's never too late to get up. Look at me, young people. If you can dream it, you can do it. You just have to be willing to work for whatever your dreams are" (2014, Athens, Tenn., Chamber of Commerce fundraiser; "Education is so important. Anytime you can help a kid and give him self-worth and help him overcome problems in his life ..." (2015, before Mountain Education Foundation appearance).
— Describing his personal demons, 2008: In the book "Breaking Free: My Life With Dissociative Identity Disorder," Walker detailed a condition in which, at the end of his football career, as many as 12 alternate personalities controlled him. Though he said he didn't remember the incidents, he also admitted nearly taking his life via Russian roulette and threatening that of his former wife with guns, knives and a straight razor. He said he wanted to help others who had the disorder and recently had helped finance several mental health hospitals.
— Out of the kindness of his heart: Walker stopped in Chattanooga as part of a Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America for Victory Junction Camp for seriously ill children (2010); sent a get-well card to wounded Chattanooga police officer Dennis Pedigo (2015); and visited Devon Gales, a Southern University football player paralyzed due to a hit in a 2015 game with the University of Georgia (2016).
— Sounding like a politician, 2015: "I will pull for Atlanta [in an upcoming NFL game], even though I had no ties with Atlanta other than me being from Georgia," Walker told "Press Row" on ESPN 105.1 FM. "... I tell everyone that I played in a lot of states in the NFL just in case I run for office. I had a great time in Minnesota. Philadelphia is a city where you go to and work. You don't go there to talk. New York has a lot of good people, and it's a city very serious about business."
— Weighing in on protests, 2020: "I have an idea," Walker tweeted amid last summer's calls to defend police departments. "For all these people who don't want any police, I'd love to meet with American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest and make a deal to fly them to countries that don't have police. I want them to be happy!"
— Defending President Donald Trump, 2020: "Growing up in the Deep South," Walker said at the Republican National Convention, "I've seen racism up close. I know what it is, and it isn't Donald Trump. Just because someone loves and respects the flag, our national anthem and our country doesn't mean they don't care about social justice. ... He shows how much he cares about social justice in the Black community through his actions, and his actions speak louder than stickers or slogans on a jersey."
We don't know what the fate of Walker — who recently moved his registration to Georgia from his home in Texas — will be, but we believe all candidates deserve to be judged on their successes and their failures, not just those in one party.