(NewsNation) — Invocations of God, verbal interruptions and frequent chastising by moderators dominated Friday night’s Georgia Senate debate between Republican Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Both men accused the other of having a “problem with the truth” as they spent an hour of debate trading personal verbal jabs and invoking religion in a debate that hit on issues ranging from abortion, personal integrity, the economy, foreign policy, health care and crime.
Yet, the debate featured little substantive policy discussion and instead produced personal attacks and unanswered questions from the candidates. The debate grew particularly heated when crime and personal integrity were the topic of conversation.
In one of the debate’s odder moments, Walker drew a stiff reprimand from a debate moderator after he pulled what was deemed a prop police badge out of his pocket. Walker claimed it was real in response to a jab from Warnock in which he mocked a false claim Walker had once made that he had been a police officer.
“One thing I have never done is pretend to be a police officer and I have never threatened a shootout with police,” Warnock said.
Walker then pulled out a police badge and said, “You know what’s funny is I am with many police officers” while he flashed the badge to the laughing audience. The debate moderator then reminded Walker props were not allowed in the debate, to which Walker responded, “it’s not a prop, this is real.”
In a post-debate interview with NewsNation’s Leland Vittert, Walker again refuted Warnock’s claim he had ever posed as a police officer and said he has “worked with law enforcement” and carries the badge on him “all the time.”
“I have trained with FBI, I have supported men and women in blue for years,” Walker said. “This is not something that I just happened to do, so they lied about it.”
On the subject of personal integrity, Warnock did not directly answer multiple questions about a report that an apartment building owned by him and his church had been evicting tenants who in some cases owed just $25 in unpaid rent.
Walker capitalized on Warnock’s avoidance of the questions about the report, saying “now you see who has a problem with the truth.” Warnock painted the report as an attempt by right-leaning media to smear him.
“I am saying it is very obvious my opponent and his allies are trying to sully Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Warnock said.
“I didn’t write the article,” Walker said. “…Well, senator, you did (evict tenants) and it’s OK to speak the truth. Do not bear false witness.”
Motions to evict tenants were taken in court, but not by Warnock and his camp. The eviction motions were taken by Columbia Residential, which owns a 1% stake in the building, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Columbia Residential said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution that no evictions actually took place.
Both men received applause from their supporters in attendance when showcasing their stances on abortion.
Warnock said he stood by a woman’s right to choose.
“We are witnessing right now when politicians, most of them men, pile into patients’ room,” Warnock said. “I trust women more than I trust politicians.”
Walker said he supports the Georgia heartbeat bill, which bans almost all abortions when a heartbeat is detected, which usually happens around six weeks of pregnancy.
“(Warnock) told me Black Lives Matter, and if you think about it, senator, in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s more Black babies that are aborted than anything,” Walker said. “So if Black lives matter, why are you not protecting those babies?”
Walker has come under scrutiny however after an ex-girlfriend claimed he paid for her to have an abortion and pressured her to have another one. Walker called the claim a lie.
That claim didn’t seem to bother Georgia Republicans much however.
“I feel that what is grossly unfair is when people will edit for themselves or let someone else edit for them what they’ve said or what their life has been about because Herschel Walker has been extremely transparent, I never had any doubts about the fact he had skeletons in his closet,” said Georgia voter Sharon, who is a pro-life advocate.
Georgia has been the epicenter of former President Donald Trump’s false claim he won the 2020 election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is currently conducting an investigation into Trump and his allies about their pressure campaign to overturn the results of the election in Georgia.
On Friday night, Walker was asked straight up who he thought won the election.
“President Biden won and Sen. Warnock won and that’s the reason I decided to run,” Walker said.
Despite not siding with Trump’s claim he won the 2020 election, a lie he continues to repeat, Walker did say Donald Trump was his “friend” and he supported him.
Throughout the debate Walker repeatedly tied Warnock to Biden, particularly on issues of inflation, where Walker placed blame on the Biden administration and its allies like Warnock for the record levels of inflation.
“Right now, families are starving, right now families are hurting, and they’re hurting because of the bills and the laws you’re passing right now,” Walker said.
Warnock avoided directly answering whether he supported Biden running for president again in 2024, dancing around the question twice.
“I have not spent a minute thinking about what politician should run for what in 2024,” Warnock said.
Walker and Warnock took starkly different stands on Biden’s decision to forgive some federal student loan debt, which he did through executive action in August.
Warnock said loan forgiveness would “spur entrepreneurship, homeownership, it helps kids in technical schools and vocational schools, not just four-year colleges, but we need reform.”
Walker put his stance on the matter bluntly, saying student loan forgiveness was “unfair,” adding “I did not co-sign for anyone’s loans.”
The mayor of South Fulton, Georgia, Khalid Kamau said he was “disappointed” in both candidates and the debate performance “made him happy” he was a member of the Working Families Party.
“I wish there would be more debates with these two candidates because I think they both could sharpen their messages a bit more,” Kamau said. “I would vote for Raphael Warnock, I don’t think he’s quite earned … there were times I honestly did feel he was not as candid as I wanted him to be and not as strong as I wanted him to be speaking on issues with working families.”
NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo asked a watch party of Georgia voters after the debate if any of them had changed their minds about who they were voting for, no one raised their hand.
After the debate, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield that “in traditional terms, Warnock probably won the debate, but Walker held his own. He was like a gladiator, in a calm way. He might have helped himself.”
Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart also weighed in on “Banfield,” saying that it’s impossible to know who will win: “You don’t know who is angrier right now, women about Roe v. Wade or very conservative people about what Joe Biden’s doing.”