Hypocritically Hiding Herschel At CNS
CNSNews.com was an early promoter of Herschel Walker's political ambitions and friendship with Donald Trump -- but it almost completely censored reports of abusive behavior and paying for abortions.
By Terry Krepel
As Walker ramped up his political activism in 2020, CNS devoted numerous articles to his right-wing pontifications (and defenses of Trump) in the run-up to the presidential election:
Not only was Walker sounding like a Trump campaign surrogate, he was sounding like a political candidate. CNS didn't point that out, of course; it was happy to serve as Walker's -- and Trump's -- PR division.
CNS' first post-election article on Walker was not until a February 2021 article by Susan Jones, in which he "told a House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday he opposes reparations for slavery on a number of grounds, including his religion." Jones did not explain what made Walker an expert witness on reparations. A March 2021 article by Craig Bannister -- who wrote many of the 2020 Walker-touting articles -- showed some Walker love from his (and CNS') favorite president:
Former President Donald Trump wants Herschel Walker to run for the Senate in the state where Walker won a Heisman Trophy playing for the Georgia Bulldogs in college.
That was the result Walker and CNS seemed to be gunning for. Strangely, though, the only article referencing Walker in the months after that was a July 2021 piece by Jones that cited another prominent Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, touting a potential Walker Senate bid: "I hope Herschel Walker runs. Herschel Walker is talking like the average Georgian. He wants his mom to be able to go to the store without being hurt."
But when Walker actually did announce his Senate campaign in August, CNS reported nothing. And when Walker racked up key Republican endorsements, CNS was silent about that too. Why? Possibly because of disturbing revelations about Walker's past.
The Associated Press reported in July 2021 that Walker's ex-wife cited "physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior" in filing from divorce from him in 2001 and later sought a protective order from him in court. He has also been caught falsely exaggerating the size of his chicken-products business and has a history of unpredictable behavior. Walker has admitted a long struggle with mental illness, but has claimed that therapy and his Christian faith has turned things around.
Since CNS had completely stopped reporting on him, its readers weren't told about this. But CNS is nothing if not a loyal pro-Trump Republican booster, so it was only a matter of time before it clambered back onto the bandwagon as the 2022 midterms got closer -- though it took longer than one would think. In the first nine months of 2022, CNS devoted only one article to Walker, a Jan. 3 article by Craig Bannister claiming that Walker "says Americans need to rethink what it means to “Build Back Better,“ in a video taking on the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social spending and climate bill."
During that time, a lot happened that CNS failed to report on. Not only did Walker win his Republican primary, he got caught telling numerous falsehoods and had to reveal that he has more illegitimate children that he had previously admitted to. But there was even more to come: In early October, it was revealed that a woman who had a relationship with Walker said Walker paid for an abortion he wanted her to have (and had receipts and a greeting card to prove it) and that his campaign knew the story was out there. Walker denied the story and threatened to sue over it, though he eventually did admit he knows the woman and that he also has a child with her. All of this caused the one son he acknowledged before the campaign started, Christian Walker, to switch from vociferously defending his father to vociferously attacking him and his dishonesty.
Now, you would think a story like this would be very much in CNS' ballpark of coverage -- after all, editor Terry Jeffrey is an anti-abortion obsessive and regularly lectures against broken families because they can provide better for their children. But you would be wrong: CNS did its best to censor any mention of Walker's abortion scandal on its website. In the first few days after the abortion scandal broke, CNS referenced Walker in two articles:
CNS' abject refusal to report a newsworthy story solely because it makes a Republican candidate look bad actually makes CNS look bad. This partisan censorship makes it all too clear that CNS cares nothing about journalism and everything about advancing partisan right-wing narratives. It's not a "news" organization -- it's a stenography service, and nobody who wants to truly call themselves a journalist has no business being associated with such hackery.
As the campaign continued, the scandal was almost completely censored with only a couple brief, passing mentions. An Oct. 20 article by Micky Wootten on a debate between Walker and his Democratic incumbent opponent, Raphael Warnock, completely censored any mention of Walker's abortion scandal, even though it was discussed during the debate. Instead, Wootten deceptively kept his story focused on financial issues, noting that they "clashed over student loan debt but apparently agreed that there should not be a federal minimum wage."
An Oct. 27 article by Melanie Arter provided the first non-oblique mention in a "news" article of Walker's abortion scandal -- which came only after a second woman came forward to say Walker paid her for an abortion. But the main focus of her article was promoting how "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that the reason why liberals are so intent on defeating Hershel Walker’s bid to become the next senator from Georgia is because if Walker 'becomes a Republican, maybe every other young child in America of color might want to be a Republican.'" It wasn't until the third paragraph that Arter noted that "Walker told Fox News’ 'Hannity' that the latest allegation against him that he pressured a woman into getting an abortion is 'a lie.'"
A Nov. 4 article by Lauren Shank supplied the only other pre-election reference to the scandal. It was effectively a press release for a so-called study by CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, complaining about supposedly "negative" coverage of Republican candidates, an example of which was "anonymous and unverified allegations that GOP candidate Herschel Walker years ago paid for two women’s abortions, charges that Walker vehemently denied."
An anonymously written Nov. 9 article on the Walker-Warnock race going to a runoff went back to censoring the abortion scandal and offering Walker puffery instead: "Walker, a Georgia native, played running back for the University of Georgia and won the Heisman Trophy in 1982. He then played professional football in the USFL and the NFL."
The first matter of business was to keep Walker's runoff campaign from being damaged by Republican midterm failures in which a supposed "red wave" never materialized. A Nov. 14 article by Melanie Arter quoted outgoing Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan saying that Donald Trump announcing his candidacy early for the 2024 presidential campaign could mean that Walker loses. An article the next day by Arter quoted a Republican senator arguing that the GOP should hold off on congressional leadership battles until after the runoff because "we don't want to do anything to hurt Herschel Walker." And a Nov. 19 article by Jones quoted a different Republican senator attacking "the Democrats' soft-on-crime, left-wing ideology," adding, "This is a major issue in the Georgia senate race and this is why Georgians should get out and vote for Herschel Walker." No mention was made of Walker's positions on the issues, let alone his scandals.
Laruen Shank served up more aggressive promotion from the boss of editor Terry Jeffrey's daughter in a Nov. 29 article:
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently repeated Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) question on Fox’s Hannity, “Why do the Democrats hate Herschel [Walker] so much?” His answer settled on, “Because he’s a black man who’s a conservative, who has the courage to speak out.”
Again, no mention of Walker's scandals was made.
Then, on Dec. 6, the day of the runoff, Arter attacked Warnock's position on abortion:
Sen. Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.) told MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” on Monday that Jesus supports abortion.
Bizarrely, Arter made no mention of the fact that Walker has been credibly accused of paying for two abortions.
After Walker lost again to Warnock, Jones served up one last fluff job on Walker by praising his concession speech:
In a concession speech that even some of his critics applauded, U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker thanked his Savior Jesus Christ, his wife Julie, and his supporters, in that order.
This aversion continued in a Dec. 14 syndicated post-mortem column by Star Parker, who complained that Warnock is "a boilerplate Democrat of the left, with an agenda of government spending as the answer to every problem, who is also the address to turn to keep the door open to abortion and the LGBTQ agenda." Like Jones, Parker did not consider Walker's abortion hypocrisy as a factor.
CNS also published a Nov. 21 commentary by Jenny Beth Martin attacking Warnock while praising Walker: "Our Constitution is our guarantee that our government will protect the rights that flow to us from our Creator. Herschel knows that. Warnock, based on his voting record, does not. The choice is clear." For unexplained reasons, CNS deleted her commentary, but as we all know, the Internet is forever.
CNS' mission statement claims that it "endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story." Yet again, it's refusing to live up to its own words -- it certainly doesn't doesn't want to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story" when one of those sides makes a fellow conservative look bad.