ICYMI: DAILY BEAST: Herschel Walker Will Debate — If He Gets the Topics in Advance

August 10, 2022

These “unusual” debate terms could appeal “to a campaign dogged by controversy and lies… with ‘no grasp of public policy’ or ‘knowledge of issues that matter to the people of Georgia’”

Today, the Daily Beast is out with a new report on how GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker has agreed to debate only “if he gets the topics in advance,” something that is “rare for debates in Georgia” and not a feature of any of the three debates Reverend Warnock agreed to over two months ago. All the debate organizers “characterized the stipulation as unusual,” with one saying, “In my 30-plus years of doing this, we’ve never given out the topics.” 

The Daily Beast notes that receiving topics in advance could appeal “to a campaign dogged by controversy and lies, whose staff has tried for months to manage a severely gaffe-prone candidate with ‘no grasp of public policy’ or ‘knowledge of issues that matter to the people of Georgia,’ as the Valdosta Daily Times put it.”

Over two months ago, Reverend Warnock committed to three general election debates against GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker — and for more than two months, Walker’s refused to commit to those debates despite previous comments that he would get on stage with Reverend Warnock “any day of the week.”

Read more on why Herschel Walker is not ready to represent the people of Georgia below: 

The Daily Beast: Herschel Walker Will Debate — If He Gets the Topics in Advance

Roger Sollenberger, 8/10/22

  • Professional athlete turned Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has accepted one invitation to debate Democratic opponent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA)—and it just so happens to be the one debate that provides the topics in advance.
  • That’s the single appreciable difference between four proposed debates, a subject that, according to the campaigns and event organizers, remains unresolved and confusing, despite the candidates jawing at each other for weeks.
  • Walker’s campaign has said they chose the forum—hosted by national news conglomerate Nexstar and its Savannah based NBC affiliate, WSAV—because it would have a live audience and the “format and the moderators are fair and would allow each candidate equal opportunity to share their message.”
  • But it’s apparently rare for debates in Georgia to provide the topics ahead of time. None of the three debates Warnock has previously agreed to are offering the heads-up, according to the organizers’ conversations with The Daily Beast.
  • Larry Silbermann, general manager of WTOC Savannah, which has already struck an agreement with the Warnock campaign for a debate in mid-October, told The Daily Beast that he’d never fielded such a request.
  • “In my 30-plus years of doing this, we’ve never given out the topics or have a candidate request it,” Silbermann said.
  • While Nexstar may not have released any details, Georgia Public Broadcasting published the terms last week.
  • “Topics will be provided to the campaigns prior to the broadcast, but specific questions will not,” the term sheet says.
  • The terms also note that “candidates should expect some of the questions to be visually supported by graphics on the screen,” which “will help the candidate and the voter better understand the question.”
  • Those would seem appealing features to a campaign dogged by controversy and lies, whose staff has tried for months to manage a severely gaffe-prone candidate with “no grasp of public policy” or “knowledge of issues that matter to the people of Georgia,” as the Valdosta Daily Times put it. 
  • Silbermann, of WTOC Savannah, said that when Walker announced on Fox News last Sunday that he’d accepted a debate before a live audience in Savannah, he initially thought it was his.
  • “At first I thought he meant the WTOC debate, because I’d just been emailing with them,” said Silbermann, who had at the time been in touch with the campaign and O’Donnell, the debate coach.
  • “He reached out on Sunday with questions about the format, like to see whether [Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver] would be participating,” Silbermann recalled. Silbermann said he replied that they wouldn’t include Oliver, who was polling at 3 percent, below WTOC’s 10 percent threshold. (APC and Mercer University debates would include Oliver, but he did not qualify for the Nexstar debate, according to their term sheet.)
  • O’Donnell had also asked whether WTOC could provide a live audience format, Silbermann said, which, after securing Warnock’s consent, he said they could accommodate. Hours later, Walker told Fox News he had accepted a live debate in Savannah.
  • The next day, Silbermann asked O’Donnell if Walker had been referring to his event. But when O’Donnell replied a day or two later, he told Silbermann he was no longer fielding those questions for the campaign, Silbermann recalled, redirecting the inquiry to campaign manager Scott Paradise. Paradise also hasn’t responded, Silbermann said, adding that “opaque is a good way to describe” the campaign’s behavior.
  • Strauss, head of the Atlanta Press Club, the state’s premier forum for candidate debates, told The Daily Beast that the Walker campaign had been responsive from the jump.
  • “We’ve been in touch frequently, and they’ve always been quick to respond,” Strauss said.
  • Strauss said the Walker campaign had reached out in late July with questions about format—questions she declined to disclose—and that she had sent an email reply on Monday night. The campaign hasn’t replied, she told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
  • The next morning, the Walker campaign abruptly rejected the press club’s offer. 
  • “The reason we are able to host an extensive series each year is largely due to an endowment from the late Charlie Loudermilk, who was a known conservative businessman in Georgia and lifelong Republican,” the statement read, adding that Loudermilk believed in “a robust discussion of the issues from people of differing political views.”
  • Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, told the outlet that “we’re leaving the elite media behind and rejecting the partisan Press Club debate.”
  • Notably, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has committed to an APC debate this fall against Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams. And in 2020, former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) debated Warnock at the Atlanta Press Club event—twice.
  • While Nexstar’s official political action committee hasn’t given any money to Warnock, Biden, or Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), the Nexstar PAC did give $5,000 apiece to Ossoff and Warnock’s 2020 Republican opponents—Loeffler, and former Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
  • Paradise didn’t respond when asked whether the campaign would reject the Nexstar debate on the same principle.
  • If Walker does not participate at the APC, he will be represented as Perdue was when he skipped the second debate—by an empty lectern.
  • It is unclear whether the Nexstar debate will offer Walker the same opportunity if Warnock declines—and if so, whether Walker would take it.

Read up on the top reasons why Herschel Walker refuses to accept three debates against Reverend Warnock after vowing to debate “any day of the week”


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