WADLEY - After a brutal week for his campaign, Herschel Walker on Thursday stuck to his defense that reporting he paid for an ex-girlfriends abortion is nothing more than a Democratic distraction, whatever the evidence.
"I know why you're here, and you're here because the Democrats are desperate to hold onto this seat, and they're desperate to make this race about my family," Walker told the crowd of local and national reporters at a hastily announced visit to a sawmill. "They don't want to talk about Joe Biden and (Democratic Sen.) Raphael Warnock and what they've done to Georgian families."
The Republican appeared at a rally consisting mostly of employees of Battle Lumber Co., a timber mill and pallet shop located in a small South Georgia town 30 minutes away from Walker's childhood home of Wrightsville.
Earlier this week, the The Daily Beast reported that Walker, a former NFL star, had paid for a former girlfriend's abortion. On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that the unnamed woman is also the mother of one of Walker's children.
Walker has run on an anti-abortion platform, including backing a proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks nationally and saying he wants to ban abortion with no exceptions.
Shortly after the story broke, Walker's adult son Christian - a right wing personality in his own right - took to Twitter to say that Walker's family had asked him not to run. He followed with a series of Tweets and videos elaborating.
On Thursday, Herschel Walker continued his denials of the woman's claims, saying "this here abortion thing is false, it's a lie." Asked about Christian Walker's tweets, Walker said, "I love my son so much ... I love him to death, and you know what, I'll always love him, no matter what."
Asked if he had reached out to the mothers of any of his children, he said no.
"Because I of the article I had more kids, that's why I didn't reach out to anyone, because I said no, and that's what I mean, when I say no, I say that's not correct, that's a lie, and that's what I mean, that's a lie," he said.
This was not Walkers first denial of the day. During a radio interview on Thursday morning Walker denied the reporting, adding "if that had happened, there would be nothing to be ashamed of there, people have done that, but I know nothing about it."
Thursday afternoon he said his comment of "nothing to be ashamed of" was not referring to the abortion.
"I was talking about something totally different that did happen, with my ex wife," he said. "Anything happened with my ex-wife or what Christian was talking about, I don't know...I said nothing about if it did happen, because I said that's a lie."
Walker voiced his commitment to the Oct. 14 debate against Sen. Raphael Warnock, to be staged in a small entertainment venue along Savannah's riverfront. The debate is the only one scheduled between the two candidates and was agreed to only after months of badgering and name-calling by the two campaigns.
Rally attendees stand behind Walker
At the campaign rally several attendees told the USA TODAY Network they were still supportive of Walker, despite the explosive Daily Beast reporting.
Many of the rally attendees appeared to be workers at the 462 acre Battle Lumber Company, which hosted the gathering. The gathering was held at one corner of the property, next to a highway. Walker spoke from the back of a flatbed truck, an American flag waving behind him from a Battle Lumber branded crane.
Linda Lariscy, a Wrens, Georgia resident and pastor, said she empathized with Christian Walker's complaints against his father but forgiveness was also needed.
"Maybe Herschel wasn't what he needed at the time when he was growing up," she said. "But we have to forgive. And we have to go on with our lives."
Jimmy Lee Bass, a Jefferson County resident and employee of the lumber mill where the rally was held, similarly said the abortion scandal would not sway him from voting for Walker. Bass grew up about 20 miles from Walker, whom he called "the greatest."
"Hey you gotta do what you got to do," Bass said when asked about the allegations. He will still support Walker "no matter what."
Retired factory worker Rosa Lamb said she believed Walker's denials." I don't believe none of it," Lamb said of the abortion report.
"He's a man of his word," Lamb said. "And whatever he done, he's confessed everything. And he's not denying anything."
John Hale, a nuclear security officer at Plant Vogtle, had never been to a Walker rally until Thursday. But he decided to attend to learn more about Walker.
"Unfortunately, people will say things to hurt somebody," said Hale. "And until you know, and actually speak to the person and have all the facts, I really can't make a judgment on somebody. That's not my place to do."
Even if the allegations are true Hale said it would not change his support for Walker, "because everybody makes mistakes."
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Herschel Walker denies abortion report at Georgia campaign event