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OPINION: State’s possible next U.S. senator should think before he speaks
Herschel Walker and Donald Trump
In this May 29, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, left, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, right, watch as former football player Herschel Walker, center, throws footballs during White House Sports and Fitness Day on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. - photo by The Associated Press

Shouldn’t a candidate this close to being a U.S. senator, whether Republican or Democrat, be expected to think before he speaks?

I'm talking, of course, about Herschel Walker, the GOP nominee for one of Georgia's two U.S. Senate seats.

However, there is no doubt Walker is a football legend in this state. After essentially dominating the SEC at tailback from 1980 to 1982 at UGA, he won the 1982 Heisman Trophy. 

He then left school early and went on to play in the fledgling USFL for the Donald Trump-owned New Jersey Generals and, later, for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. 

Now, years later, former president Trump convinced Walker to move back to Georgia after years in Texas and enter the world of politics.

Walker ran for U.S. Senate and won the Republican nomination for the office easily last week over a bevy of much lesser-known candidates whose resumes did not include national championships or Heisman Trophies. 

But he will face an opponent with high name recognition in U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in November. In those months after he declared his candidacy, Walker had the luxury of dodging his little-known Republican opponents and not participate in debates. But he already has committed to debate Warnock.

So, what will Walker say if he’s asked about the college degree from UGA he’s touted for years, or his status as valedictorian of his senior class at Johnson County High School?

Or his stand on gun violence, or NATO’s relation to the Ukraine War, or claims that former president Donald Trump never said the 2020 presidential election was “stolen”?

Walker has made some seriously inaccurate statements recently on such issues as the Ukraine War and evolution. 

Walker reportedly told a Carrollton Rotary Club in Carrollton that NATO has not been supporting Ukraine or working against Russia’s invasion — both false.

Then, at a Gwinnett County church, a man who has a good chance of being a member of the body that confirms Supreme Court justices publicly questioned the validity of evolution by saying if man had evolved from apes then “apes would no longer exist.” 

As Business Insider points out, “Walker’s claim echoes one of the biggest misunderstandings of evolution that has plagued scientists and biologists since Charles Darwin first made his theory. 

“The theory does not state that humans descended from apes or chimpanzees or any other related animal that is alive today. Rather, humans and apes shared a common ancestor millions of years ago.”

If all of this wasn’t bizarre enough, Walker also has been saying for years — including in a book he wrote — that he returned to UGA to earn a degree after leaving early to join the USFL. 

But numerous news outlets have found he never received a college degree despite claims to the Dallas Morning News that he earned one in criminal justice. His promotional materials for his book also featured the false claim he graduated. 

He also went so far as to tell SiriusXM Radio and others he was in the top 1% of his college graduating class — an impossible claim if he never received a degree.

Then, his claim he was high school valedictorian could not be proven. News outlets found the school did not designate a valedictorian in the year Walker graduated, despite one Heisman Trophy biographical website stating he was the school’s top student that year.

And when Fox 5 news anchor Russ Spencer recently asked Walker about the college graduation and valedictorian claims, Walker said he had never said he graduated from UGA. But he has made the claim repeatedly — CNN reporting he made both the graduation and valedictorian claims in a 2017 motivational speech, a radio interview and on his website promoting his 2009 book.

Then, in the same interview with Fox 5, Walker denied Trump has ever said the 2020 election was “stolen” — despite Trump making the claim repeatedly. He later clarified the statement to say he had never heard Trump tell Walker that it was stolen.

And, just in the past few days, Walker gave a jumbled explanation to Fox News about gun violence that showed he had little or no understanding of the subject. 

Apparently, the Republican nominee for one of Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats has thought little about how to prevent the deaths of 19 innocent children, or 10 shoppers at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket  — and the potential for it happening again — that it has barely been on his radar.

In fact, one of his possible solutions to gun violence in the Fox interview was creation of a government agency to watch young men’s social media activity. What do his fellow Republicans who believe the government has gone too far in breeching individual liberties think of that?

This from someone who has a very good chance of representing Georgia and becoming one of 100 people guiding this nation’s future in the U.S. Senate. 

Republicans could have nominated state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, who does think before he speaks and is well-versed in the workings of Georgia's largest industry.

If Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock made the same repeated gaffes — someone with that much power and influence — I would criticize him, too.

Again, I ask: Shouldn’t a candidate this close to being a U.S. senator — whether Republican or Democrat — be expected to think before he speaks?

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The News. He may be reached at