Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker flashed a police badge during his Friday debate against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., as the two exchanged heated remarks over a discussion about support for police.
Warnock took aim at Walker's past violent behavior, citing an incident in which the Republican "talked about having a shoot-out with police" and called him out for falsely claiming to have worked in law enforcement.
"One thing that I haven't done is I haven't pretended to be a police officer and I've never threatened a shootout with police," Warnock said.
Walker, who in 2019 claimed that he was once an FBI agent and said on several other occasions that he had worked in law enforcement, brandished an honorary sheriff's badge, saying he had "worked with many police officers."
The debate moderator repeatedly asked Walker to put the badge away, citing debate rules barring the use of props.
"This is from my hometown. This is from Johnson County from the sheriff from Johnson County, which is a legit badge," Walker later told NBC's Kristen Welker in an interview.
"If anything happened in this county, I have the right to work with the police getting things done," he insisted. "People don't know that I've been working with law enforcement for years... But they can call me whenever they want me, and I have the authority to do things for them, to work with them on a thing."
Welker noted that the National Sheriff's Association said the honorary badge is for the "trophy case."
"That is totally not true," Walker said. "I had a sheriff that gave me the badge — been there for years, I've been there for years — came out and did a press conference with me, and said Herschel been with us for years, he'd been working with us."
Walker has never held a job in law enforcement, according to a CNN fact-check.
The Trump-endorsed candidate has claimed otherwise in the past. In August, he posted an image of an honorary deputy sheriff card given to him by the Cobb County Sheriff's Office and said he was "proud to serve the blue as an honorary agent."
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Walker received the badge in recognition of the community service work he had done with the sheriff's department, his campaign spokesman told The New York Times.
His actions drew widespread mockery, but weren't unusual for a campaign marred by scandals. Most recently, Walker has been scrutinized for paying for a woman's abortion in 2009 despite having a strong anti-abortion stance.
Multiple women have come forward with domestic abuse allegations against the Republican. Walker was exposed by The Daily Beast for fathering secret children even as he has criticized the role of absentee fathers. He has also pushed out falsehoods about graduating in the top 1% of his class at the University of Georgia, but the former football star never even received a diploma.
Walker skipped the debate with Warnock on Sunday, saying the forum was a "sham" favoring the incumbent. The debate was hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.
"I think it's important to point out that my opponent Herschel Walker is not here, and I think that half of being a senator is showing up, that's half of life," Warnock said in his answer to the first question. "And I have shown up for the people of Georgia time and time again."
Walker's spokesperson, Will Kiley, said that Walker "dominated" the first debate between the two major candidates.
"After failing miserably in his first debate, Raphael Warnock wants a do-over, by attending tonight's sham hosted by his liberal friends," Kiley said in a statement.
With Warnock holding a slight advantage over Walker in recent polls, the Georgia race is one of the most pivotal Senate races in the country that will determine which party controls the Senate.
Warnock's campaign said that Walker's decision to skip the debate shows that he "is not ready to represent the people of Georgia."
"If Herschel Walker can't show up for a debate," Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks said, "he can't be trusted to show up for Georgians in the U.S. Senate."