(NewsNation) — Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker was scolded by a debate moderator Friday night when he pulled out a police badge while rebutting an answer from Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Walker displayed the badge after Warnock, a Democrat, said he himself has never “pretended to be a police officer,” referencing reports that Walker has falsely claimed that he has worked in law enforcement.
Debate moderator Tina Tyus-Shaw quickly scolded Walker, telling him, “You’re well aware of the rules tonight, and you have a prop. That is not allowed.”
“It’s not a prop, this is real,” Walker responded.
“I am, I work with, many police officers,” Walker said in response to Warnock’s attack as he pulled the badge out of his suit jacket.
Tyus-Shaw again told Walker to put it away before moving on to another question.
The exchange occurred during a portion of the debate focusing on crime, in which Walker accused his opponent of not supporting police officers.
“He’s called them names, and because of the name calling, morale is down, recruitment is down,” Walker said. “He’s empowered criminals to think they’re better than the police.”
Warnock refuted that assertion, saying Walker “has a problem with the truth.”
“I have supported our police officers, I’ve called them and prayed with their families… when they were killed,” Warnock aid. “You can support police officers as I have done… while at the same time holding police officers, like all professions, accountable.”
The two candidates sparred on stage Friday night in Savannah during their first and only debate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Warnock holds about a 3-point lead over Walker in polling averages.
Walker explained after the debate that he carries the badge “all the time” and refuted allegations that he’s ever claimed to actually be employed by or act as a law enforcement agent.
“I have supported men and women in blue for years,” Walker said. “I said I work with law enforcement, I never said I went out and did anything.”
In post-debate analysis, NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt said the prop rule is an important one and common in debates. Using it was “obviously more than just a political issue” for Walker, Stirewalt said.
“It’s painful for him because he has been repudiated by Cobb County and others who said ‘that was an honorary thing, it’s not a real thing,'” Stirewalt said. “It’s an embarrassing thing, it’s a painful thing, and he really wanted to be able to be able to say that for things beyond this race relating to his own feelings about himself.”