Pro football star turned Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker will not say whether he has been vaccinated. But in Walker’s mind, he may not need the shot.
That’s because, months before the vaccine was available, Walker was swearing by—and encouraging others to use—unproven mystery treatments, including an allegedly FDA-approved “dry mist” that will “kill any COVID on your body.”
In an August 2020 interview with right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck, Walker hyped two unspecified aerosol COVID prophylactics. One was the aforementioned “dry mist,” for use in an interior environment; the other was some sort of “spray.”
Walker dropped the big news unprompted about 40 minutes into the interview, amid a discussion of law enforcement, beginning by telling Beck that he “probably shouldn’t tell you.”
“Do you know right now, I have something that [you can bring] into a building, that will clean you of COVID, as you walk through this, this dry mist?” Walker asks.
Beck, processing this information, squints. Walker interprets this as an invitation to proceed.
“As you walk through the door, it will kill any COVID on your body,” he continues. He leans in and adds, “EPA-, FDA-approved.”
That claim would seem to indicate that the mystery treatment is an existing product. While there are obviously disinfectant sprays that are FDA-approved, no spray has been proven to stop the transmission of the airborne coronavirus. Walker’s claims seem to be based on nothing. Beck does a double-take, but the football icon isn’t done.
“When you leave—it will kill the virus as you leave, this here product,” Walker says. He adds that he has a second unspecified miracle product, a “spray” possibly indicated for use after the dry mist treatment.
“They don’t want to talk about that. They don’t want to hear about that,” Walker says. “And I’m serious.”
Beck appears to search the room for a response, before landing on impending totalitarianism.
“I, I will tell you—I, I’ll tell you that, um, Herschel, that, um, the more investigation that we’ve done—we’re over 150 days now into our 15-day flatten-the-curve experiment. And I look at it and there’s something more going on, and it’s teaching us to be controlled,” the host says.
“It’s truly frightening,” Beck adds, then asks about Walker’s experience selling supplies to the restaurant industry.
The bizarre proposal echoes the famous pitch of Walker’s longtime friend Donald Trump, who spitballed the unscientific and dangerous internal use of disinfectants to prevent COVID in a televised press conference just a few months before Walker’s interview.
“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that,” the former commander-in-chief said at the time.
(In the days after the press conference, poison control centers reported a spike in calls about accidental poisonings.)
Like Trump, Walker—whose own experimental aerosol treatment appears to have been for external use only—is on a political tightrope when it comes to the vaccine.
Walker, who has no political experience, officially threw in against incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in August. And since then, he has mostly traded on his celebrity and an early endorsement from Trump.
Still, the two-time Pro Bowl running back has polled highly among Republican voters. And while available fundraising data only covers his first 37 days, in that time he pocketed an eye-popping $3.8 million—dollar-for-dollar with Warnock, the top fundraiser in Congress.
Walker, 59, has declined multiple times to say whether he has been vaccinated, as recently as December. The Olympian bobsledder has previously expressed a general aversion to medicine, writing in a 2008 memoir about his dissociative identity disorder that he has “not taken any kind of medication in my life with the exception of a few mild over-the-counter pain relievers.”
And while he credits the medical breakthrough with helping the United States “turn a corner” in its pandemic response, he also said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he got in the race because “important decisions like this should be between doctors and patients.”
“I’d encourage every Georgian to reach out to your doctor and have that conversation,” the statement said.
Vaccines and boosters have proven exceedingly effective at preventing serious disease. In Georgia, unvaccinated individuals account for 40 percent of the population, but 76 percent of COVID hospitalizations; people who have received booster shots, 16 percent of the population, comprise less than three percent of hospitalizations, according to state data.
But Walker has also been burned by the anti-vax crowd. In October, the Heisman winner had to cancel a fundraising event hosted by a donor whose Twitter profile featured an image of syringes in the shape of a swastika. (A Walker spokesperson initially defended the image as not being anti-vaccine, but “clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic,” adding that “Herschel unequivocally opposes antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds.”)
The prior month, Walker expressed support for Nicki Minaj, whose apocryphal claim that the vaccine caused her cousin to develop swollen testicles had gone viral.
“Hey @NICKIMINAJ, It’s always okay to ask questions. It should be encouraged to be inquisitive in order to make sure we’re putting our country’s best interest at heart,” Walker tweeted. “Thank you for speaking out!!!”
Walker’s campaign spokesperson did not reply to questions about his vaccination status, what the aerosol products were, exactly, or whether he had used them personally.