MIAMI — Christian Walker couldn’t resist. Invited to give a speech in a gilded ballroom at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, of course he was going to show up to have all eyes on him.
It didn’t matter that he had concerns about the reason for the event: a fundraiser for his dad Herschel Walker’s primary campaign for the Republican nomination for Georgia’s Senate seat. It didn’t matter that he had begged his dad not to run for office to begin with. All that mattered to Christian, a right-wing influencer who seems to bask in attention of any kind, was that there would be an audience.
“This sounds terrible, but I love a show,” Christian told BuzzFeed News. “I gave a great speech.”
Indeed, Christian had delighted the wealthy donors with hyperbolic lines about how Democrats had been trying to run the country into the ground and turn it into a “third-world hellhole.” The crowd laughed and cheered. As he exited the stage to loud applause, his father embraced him and kissed him on the forehead.
“I got to preach about how authoritarian and HORRIFIC Democrats are, then got to hug a future senator,” Christian tweeted. “Perfect night.”
Just over a year later, Christian is sitting with me in a Starbucks in midtown Miami where the baristas know him by name, 70 or so miles south of Mar-a-Lago and a world away from the image of a beloved and obedient political son. It’s the morning after his father’s loss in Georgia’s runoff special election against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and two months since Christian, 23, lobbed hand grenades on social media that upended the race in extraordinary fashion.
“I was thinking about that last night. I was like, Damn, I really clicked ‘send’ on those original tweets,” he said Wednesday. “But no, I did what I had to do.”
On the evening of Oct. 3, Christian fired off a series of tweets to his 280,000 followers in which he reacted in raw, spectacular fashion to a Daily Beast report that alleged his father had urged — and then paid for — a former partner to have an abortion. (A second woman came forward with a similar claim weeks later.) The Republican, who had been running on a platform opposed to abortion rights, swiftly denied the story and even threatened to sue. But Christian’s tweets excoriating his father for lying signaled to voters that not even those closest to Herschel believed him.
“We were told at the beginning of this he was going to get ahead of his past, hold himself accountable, all of these different things, and that would have been fine,” Christian said in videos he posted the next morning after his tweets went viral. “He didn't do any of that. Everything's been a lie. Everything's been downplayed. Everything's been cutting corners.”
It wasn’t performative like his hundreds of other videos, lacking his typical inflammatory bravado designed to trigger the libs. Instead, Christian seemed genuinely indignant — hurt, even. How could family values voters, Christian asked, support a man who had been so cruel to his own family?
Not since the six siblings of Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar filmed an ad in 2018 condemning their far-right Republican brother and endorsing his opponent had a campaign been so shaken by a family member speaking out. Soon after Christian’s explosive posts, Herschel had tweeted only, “I LOVE my son no matter what,” but others were busy assessing the fallout. Conservative radio host Erick Erickson called the evening’s cascade of revelations “brutal, probably a KO” for Herschel’s campaign. Another unnamed Republican official allied with the candidate told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Christian would be “solely to blame if Herschel loses the race.”
With the ballots now counted, Christian doesn’t buy claims that he is exclusively responsible for sinking his dad’s political ambitions and helping Democrats — whom he despises — to claim a 51st Senate seat. His speaking out might have been the final straw for some voters, Christian thinks, but those wary conservatives or independents were likely already horrified by his father’s many other scandals. Most prominently, these included prior threats and assaults on Christian’s mother and Herschel’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman. Herschel blamed those violent incidents, which included him choking Grossman and putting a gun to her head, on mental illness.
“What was so funny to me is people that were like, ‘Christian Walker's taking down the campaign!’” he said Wednesday. “No, they took the campaign down by saying a bunch of stupid crap, by lying, by running a candidate who's a domestic abuser. I didn't do anything. All of the scandals were already out there.
“Did I give any new information? Literally, I did not. I said nothing new. We all already knew all of the scandals,” Christian said. “So no, they blew the campaign up by running a dumb campaign. I did nothing.”
Still, Christian admits his outburst has probably torched his relationship with his father — one he’s not sure he even wants at this point.
But it’s also prompted something of a reckoning in his political worldview. He’s still an avowed conservative, but he now views others on the right — even some he once considered friends — with deep disgust at what he regards as their dishonesty and hypocrisy, their willingness to do absolutely anything and back anyone for a win. Had he not been the son of the candidate, it might never have hit him so hard.
“It was refreshing in a way because I did get to take a step back and see the bigger picture in a way I hadn't seen before,” Christian said.
“Because it was close to home,” he added, “I had no choice but to see the hypocrisy.”
Christian had declined to speak with BuzzFeed News prior to the election for fear of being seen as trying to influence the vote more than he already might have. But with things now over, he seems happy and free.
As soon as the race was called late Tuesday, he broke his social media semi-silence to tweet his apparent schadenfreude and even held a Twitter Space so people could listen to him celebrating alone in his apartment. It was titled “IT’S OVER. I’M FREE.”
“Thank god that chapter is over,” he told me Wednesday. “I haven't been on social media for months really. I have kept my mouth shut besides my little video from two months ago, and now I can finally talk openly and honestly and that feels really good.”
It was fitting that we met in a Starbucks given how many of the viral, screeching rants Christian is best known for feature him sipping from an iced venti caffeinated drink in one of the coffee chain’s drive-thrus. (His coffee order — a triple espresso over ice in a venti cup with two pumps of vanilla and pumpkin cream cold foam — took the barista at least five minutes to prepare.)
From the get-go of his career as an influencer, Christian used these videos to expertly weaponize — and thus capitalize on — his identity and its seeming contradictions: a young Black man who first gained prominence on social media by speaking out in viral rants against the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020; an effeminate man who says he’s attracted to other men but refuses to identify as gay, lest he seem liberal, and who rails against the need for a Pride Month. Conservatives would hold him up as a star. Liberals would loathe him, mock him, and turn him into memes. They would all duet him on TikTok, increasing his notoriety and exposure.
Being contrarian was the point. It felt punkish to reject what might traditionally be politically expected of him as a young same-sex-attracted Black man and instead be so evidently red-pilled. “It’s totally countercultural,” he told New York magazine of his politics in March last year.
And it was making him a star: More than half a million followers on Instagram (his preferred app) and another 566,000 on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok combined. He dreamed of hosting a Wendy Williams–esque talk show, he told New York mag, but he could first easily springboard into a paid contributor role on Fox News. Who better than to make liberals lose their minds on Tucker Carlson each night? Being the son of a senator might help add some gravitas to his screeds.
But Christian said he feared that his dad’s decision to run for office would actually jeopardize his efforts to build a career, as well as their complicated relationship. After the domestic violence and ugly divorce when Christian was a toddler, he had felt abandoned by his father, but Herschel was still a presence in his life. “Childhood was really rough with him. It almost might have been better in my circumstance, if he was not present at all, but he was around,” Christian said.
Still, things between them improved somewhat in recent years. Herschel dedicated his 2008 memoir to Christian, writing, “To my son, Christian Walker, I love you. Thank you for helping me to mature as a man and a father.” The pair bonded in 2020 during the election, even attending the Republican National Convention together.
“It definitely wasn't tumultuous,” Christian said of their recent relationship. “If anything, it was in a good position.”
But when Republican then-senator Kelly Loeffler lost the January 2021 Georgia runoff to Warnock, almost immediately, Christian said, the calls began imploring his father to run. Loudest of all was Trump, who had known Herschel since the 1980s when he was a member of a United States Football League team, the New Jersey Generals, that the business mogul owned.
Despite the entreaties from influential political figures, Christian said everyone close to Herschel pleaded with him not to run. Christian doubted the intentions of those urging Herschel to jump in the race, and he didn’t believe his dad could make inroads with Black voters by virtue of simply being Black himself.
Worst of all, he feared what the media would uncover. “Please do not do this to us and please don't do this yourself,” Christian said he told his father. “It's a nasty thing. You have a good reputation. Nobody really knows about your past.”
Part of that past included Herschel, a critic of absentee fathers, fathering three other children in addition to Christian whom he had never fully spoken of publicly (these included a child with the woman who first told the Daily Beast that Herschel had paid for an abortion when he impregnated her on another occasion).
Christian said he only learned of his half-siblings, whom he says he still has never met, when he was a teenager. Once, Christian said, he found a picture on a gossip website of a woman holding a baby that Herschel was said to have fathered, only for his dad to deny it and tell him that his attorneys were taking care of it. Another time, he said he found a picture of his father’s girlfriend with a baby that Herschel again denied was his. According to Christian, it wasn’t until he found a text message from someone else wishing his dad a happy Father’s Day that he learned the truth. (Representatives for Walker’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)
Christian believes that had his father been honest with voters when he began his campaign and framed his story as one of redemption, many people would likely have forgiven him. This was the strategy that Herschel assured his son he would take when he launched the campaign, according to Christian, but it was one that never actually came to be.
After speaking at Mar-a-Lago and praising his dad on Instagram when he first launched his bid in August 2021, Christian drifted away from the campaign. Sharp observers may have noticed he didn’t post about it or appear at rallies, despite what Christian said were pleas from the campaign to do so.
Soon, Christian was disgusted that a 2008 interview his mother had given about the domestic violence she endured had been repurposed into an attack ad. Then he was angered when news of his half-siblings was finally reported in the press. And then, finally, the abortion story dropped.
“It had been lie after lie after lie at the expense of our family, so this was just the final straw,” he said. “You just lie about it and you smear the woman. I feel like I sound like a liberal right now — ‘smear the woman’ and all that — but that's what happened.”
The Daily Beast even obtained a handwritten "get well" card that Herschel had signed for the woman, and still his father denied it. “I just lost it because … I knew that that was his handwriting. I wouldn't expect anyone else to know, but I knew,” Christian said, “and that just made me deranged.”
Returning to his Miami apartment after a dinner with friends the night the story was published, Christian put on his pajamas, opened up his phone, and got ready to tweet.
Now, here was the final contrarian position he would take: the son who once appeared doting and a loyal conservative soldier, but who could now help to bring down his father.
While the tweets landed like a stunning political bombshell, some conservatives rallied around Herschel, and not everyone on the left viewed Christian’s crusade as a righteous one.
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow welcomed Christian going public but cautioned against any coverage that framed him as a hero. Citing Christian’s prior “nasty” comments on everything from feminism to Black Lives Matter to the pandemic, as well as his support for Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen, Blow blasted the young Republican for his “situational ethics.”
“He’s not opposed to lying, he’s just opposed to lying that personally affects him,” Blow wrote.
Dishonesty and wildly false claims weren’t the only comparisons to be made between Herschel and the former president. Both men have a penchant for rambling and sometimes incoherent statements, including recent viral comments from Herschel about werewolves and vampires that baffled observers and which Christian admitted had mystified even him.
Observing his dad on the trail, Christian said he was appalled at his father’s surface-level grasp of many topics. “I felt like oftentimes he sounded like a kid who was giving a book report presentation and didn't read the book, like he didn't feel like he was properly studying,” Christian told me without a hint of apparent awareness that the same claims have been frequently leveled at Trump.
“I mean, there is no quality as a candidate,” Christian said of his father, echoing earlier criticisms about “candidate quality” from other Republicans. “He doesn't know what he's talking about. His past is insane. There was no quality there. It was ridiculous.”
Christian wouldn’t say how he would’ve voted — or if he would have cast a ballot at all — had he lived in Georgia, save for the fact that he’s glad he doesn’t. He’s also made it known on Twitter that he’s firmly favoring Ron DeSantis in the apparent battle between the Florida governor and the former president who endorsed his father.
Christian is aware that his decision to speak out may have cost him some fans on the right, but he insists those aren’t the kinds of people whose support he wants. Through his outspoken condemnation of what he sees as Republican hypocrisy, he says he’s come to hate a lot of people he once considered allies.
“They weren't checking in on how I was doing, but if he was up in the polls or whatever, I'd get a text — ‘your dad might pull this through’ — and it was like, what are you trying to say?” Christian said. “I definitely have taken a step back from those people and I see them in a different light.”
For now, perhaps understandably, he says he needs a “breather” in his relationship with his father. Maybe they’ll reconnect again one day, but in the meantime Christian would prefer Herschel try to father the children he has who are still minors.
Asked directly if he loves his father, Christian paused before responding simply, “I want him to be the best he can be.” ●