The Jolt: Christian leaders rally around embattled Herschel Walker

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

With a scrum of TV cameras and reporters waiting outside the doors, First Baptist Atlanta’s senior pastor, Anthony George, led a group of evangelical Christians in prayer for embattled GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker Tuesday.

In video of the closed-door event reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, George called the GOP Senate nominee, “Our fellow conqueror, our brother, our friend.”

George prayed as about 75 “prayer warriors for Herschel” circled Walker with their hands outstretched.

“Lord, we know this is a battle he’s facing. It’s more vicious than any sports field he’s ever played on. This is the fight of his life, holy God,” George said. “We ask you to rebuke the devil … Satan will not get the victory. We know, whatever the results of this election, Herschel wins.”

Walker was at the church for a “Herschel Walker Prayer Luncheon,” on the day after a bombshell Daily Beast story accusing the former football star of paying for a former girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. That’s in stark contrast to his current position that all abortions should be illegal.

The AJC has not been able to substantiate the allegations in the Daily Beast story.

But even more challenging for the Walker campaign has been the scathing response of Walker’s son, Christian, who went to social media to detail the abuse he said he and his mother suffered because of Walker.

“How DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some “moral, Christian, upright man,” the younger Walker wrote on Twitter. “You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.”

Inside a meeting room at First Baptist, Walker described himself as “a sinner” and detailed his experience seeking treatment for a mental illness years ago.

“I remember sitting in this hospital and thinking, ‘These people are crazy. I’m not like them,’” Walker said. “And all of the sudden, I realized we all fall short of the glory of God. … I was speaking God’s name, but I was not living God’s life.”

Walker did not speak in detail about the media storm engulfing his campaign, but told the audience “God has prepared me for a moment like this. I’ve got Jesus with me and no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

Also in the audience were Ralph Reed, the longtime evangelical leader and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Chris Leader from the America First Policy Institute. Walking into the event, Reed told CNN’s Manu Raju the Daily Beast story was “gutter politics.”

When George asked Walker if there was anything specific he and the group could do to help him, Walker said, “Just pray for Julie and my family, all my family.”

With Election Day less than six weeks away, the focus now turns to what, if any, political fallout will follow for Walker’s campaign for Senate.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a Democrat, said her mayoral runs taught her that anything that happens in the final weeks of a campaign is crucial.

“Walker supporters are entrenched. But swing voters and independents will pay attention to the latest Walker news,” she said.

“I learned winning requires addition not subtraction. Every vote lost in the final weeks of the campaign probably can’t be regained. Typically in campaigns the last weeks are the time to gain position and momentum.”

Following the event, Reed told the AJC, Reed told the AJC, “The latest personal attack against Herschel based on an anonymous allegation that is 13 years old is unlikely to resonate with Georgia voters. Voters are far more likely to vote based on inflation, the economy, high gas prices, and the failure of Biden policies, which Rafael Warnock has supported 96% of the time.”


LISTEN UP: The latest edition of the Politically Georgia podcast is now up. We discuss the fallout from the Daily Beast report that Herschel Walker paid for an abortion in 2009 for his then-girlfriend — and the response from Walker’s family.

We also look at a rough week for gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams after a federal judge’s decision to toss out the 2018 voting rights challenge, and a new effort afoot from the Buckhead City Committee.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


MEET US AT MANUEL’S. The only thing better than a taping of the Politically Georgia podcast is a live taping of the Politically Georgia podcast.

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Credit: Natrice Miller / AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller / AJC

MEANWHILE. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock never said Herschel Walker’s name Tuesday night during an appearance at the Black Radio United For the Vote town hall at Clark Atlanta University.

And Warnock referenced his GOP rival just once in his 25 minutes on stage — to discuss the contrast between the two men’s positions on abortion.

Walker has said he believes all abortions should be illegal, while Warnock has never articulated any limit on the procedure that he thinks would be appropriate.

“I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” Warnock said. “My opponent says he wants a nationwide ban on abortion with no exceptions — that’d be rape, incest and the life of a mother. So the differences between me and my opponent could not be more stark and more obvious.”

On Monday night, a Daily Beast report accused Walker of paying for a former girlfriend to get an abortion in 2009, which the former UGA star denied and Warnock never spoke of.

Warnock was one of five Democrats to address the crowd of about 150 gathered at the Bishop C. L. Henderson Student Hall on Clark’s campus. Gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, attorney general nominee Jen Jordan, secretary of state nominee Bee Nguyen and state school superintendent Alisha Thomas Searcy were also on hand for the event.

The lone Republican to attend the event was Gov. Brian Kemp, who was well-received by the crowd overall.


ABRAMS’ ABORTION FOCUS. Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ newest ad focusing on abortion features veteran prosecutor J. Tom Morgan, whose “Ignorance is No Defense” book and lectures have been a mainstay of metro Atlanta classrooms for years.

The former DeKalb County district attorney tells viewers in the 30-second spot: “This is a warning for the women of Georgia: You need to know this. Brian Kemp has now made abortion a crime before many women know they’re pregnant.”


JONES’ OUTREACH. Republican lieutenant governor nominee Burt Jones, a state senator from Jackson, met with a small group of Black business owners in Forest Park on Tuesday to share their concerns with the way business is done in Georgia.

Our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu was on hand as Bruce LeVell, a former Republican congressional candidate and business owner, gathered the group of about 12 business owners at Ray’s Southern Foods. He said the goal was not to convince those business owners to vote for Jones, but to give them a chance to get their questions answered.

Credit: Hyosub Shin / AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin / AJC

Several attendees asked what could be done to alleviate regulations and access business insurance.

Jones works for his family’s fuel company, Jones Petroleum, as well as with JP Capital Insurance, which he founded.

“I want to keep a business-friendly environment in the state of Georgia,” he said. “Whether it’s local or state or federal, when you get heavy-handed, burdensome regulations or burdensome taxes that is what (stagnates) businesses.”

Jones said he’s held similar events with business leaders from various ethnic groups across the state to better understand what they need to thrive.


Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

BAILEY BUY. Charlie Bailey, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, is debuting an ad today calling his GOP opponent, Burt Jones, “a poster boy for extremism,” our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu tells us.

Jones works for his family’s fuel company, Jones Petroleum, as well as with JP Capital Insurance, which he founded.

The ad hits Jones for a report that he was under investigation by the FBI, for his position that abortion should be banned completely, and for the fact that the incumbent Republican lieutenant governor declined to endorse his campaign.

The ad will be backed by a six-figure ad buy.

“Running for Lieutenant Governor is like a job interview,” said Maria Andrade, Bailey’s campaign manager. “Unfortunately for Burt Jones, this is the first time he’s been interviewed for a job by someone other than his father. We plan to fully hold him accountable.”


WEST WHACK. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a new TV ad attacking 2nd Congressional District GOP nominee Chris West’s position on abortion.

The ad, titled “Freedom,” points out that West opposes abortion in all circumstances, even in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is at risk.

“Georgians are passionate about protecting our freedom, but Chris West would take it away,” the narrator says.

This is the second ad that the DCCC has sponsored in hopes of helping incumbent U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop hold onto his southwest Georgia seat. And it’s part of the roughly $2 million in air time the party has reserved in Columbus, Albany and Macon markets through the midterms.


WHITE HOUSE DOCTORS. Atlanta-based OB-GYN Dr. Nisha Verma provided testimony to President Joe Biden and others during the second meeting of his Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access Tuesday.

Verma spoke detailed challenges she and colleagues are facing under Georgia’s new restrictive abortion law, implemented after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and which bans most abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected.

“We’re having to turn away patients that we know how to care for,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution prior to the meeting. “We have the tools, we have the skills, we have the training to do what’s best for our patients and provide them with the care that they need, but we are not able to do that because of this law.”

She said patients who have chronic medical conditions that could worsen during pregnancy are being affected, as well as those whose pregnancies are diagnosed with fetal anomalies. It’s also limited the ability of doctors to care for patients who are having miscarriages, but where fetal activity has been detected, she said.

The White House also announced new measures to strengthen abortion access where it is legal. That includes new directives from the U.S. Department of Education to colleges and universities reminding them of their obligation not to discriminate against pregnant students under Title IX, including decisions to terminate pregnancies. The Department of Health and Human Services said it is awarding $6 million in family planning grants for family planning services and contraception.


VOTER GUIDES. The Atlanta Civic Circle and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are partnering to produce a voters’ guide for the 2022 general election.

This guide will provide voters with a side-by-side look at the candidates for office, their views on issues voters care about most, their party affiliation and their history in elective politics.

This guide will go live next week.

This locally generated, non-partisan compilation of vital information is aimed at making sure voters are fully informed before they cast their ballots.

Candidates were sent questionnaires to the email addresses disclosed in their election filing documents. Any candidates who did not receive a questionnaire can e-mail AJC Managing Editor Leroy Chapman at


Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

HONORING JOHN LEWIS. President Joe Biden has signed the bill renaming Atlanta’s main post office in Hapeville after the late Congressman John Lewis.


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