Former girlfriend of Herschel Walker tells of violent apartment encounter

<span>Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA</span>
Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

A former long-term girlfriend of Herschel Walker has spoken of the violence and abuse she says he subjected her to, a potentially devastating television interview airing just before the Republican candidate’s Senate runoff in Georgia on Tuesday.

Cheryl Parsa, 61, told NBC News on Sunday night how the former football star, who has been accused by several girlfriends and his ex-wife of mistreating them, grabbed her throat and threw a punch at her when she found him with another woman at his apartment in Dallas.

“He had his hand on my throat, my chest, and then he leaned back to throw a punch,” Parsa said of the 2005 encounter.

“And luckily, I was able to avoid that. And the punch landed on the wall instead of me.”

The Guardian has contacted Walker’s representatives for comment.

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Parsa’s claims, first reported by the Daily Beast last week, are the latest to roil the troubled campaign of Walker, who narrowly trails Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Georgia election.

A victory for Warnock would give his party a 51-49 majority in the Senate. The Democrats would control the chamber even if Warnock lost because vice-president Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes.

Walker – who is backed by former president Donald Trump and forced the runoff when neither he nor Warnock won 50% of the vote in last month’s midterms – has been accused of paying for abortions and abusing a number of women. Some observers say he could be the worst candidate Republicans have ever run.

Yet he remains competitive in the Georgia race, leading Democrats to bring out big guns including Barack Obama as cheerleaders in order to help secure the Senate seat and full control of the chamber.

Parsa claims the episode in Dallas was one of several during her five-year relationship with Walker, 61, who admits to having had mental illness, and who in 2013 said in an interview he had been a “messed-up” person with multiple personalities.

In the NBC interview, she cast doubt on his assurances that his issues were behind him, given in his October debate with Warnock when he said: “I don’t need any help. I’m doing well.”

Parsa said: “I believe the deception now is on the American people, and I have to say what I know. I have to tell the Herschel I know.”

She then described the alleged episode in the Dallas condo, during which she said Walker grabbed her by the neck and held her head up against a wall, and was so close to her she could feel spittle on her face as he spoke.

“He told me, ‘You want to see a man? I’ll show you a man’,” she said.

“He was pressing his forehead against mine. My head was against the wall. He was speaking with such force his saliva was all over my face.”

NBC said it had spoken with three women who confirmed Parsa had told them about Walker had allegedly done before he declared his Senate candidacy.

Despite at least two allegations to the contrary, Walker has insisted he has never asked a woman to have an abortion nor paid for one.

But he has admitted a turbulent past. In footage used in a political ad against Walker, his ex-wife Cindy Grossman recalled how in 2008 he allegedly held a gun to her temple and said: “I’m going to blow your effing brains out.”

She made the claim after his autobiography, Breaking Free, was published the same year, in which Walker asserted he had dissociative identity disorder with several, distinct personalities.

Publicity for the book by publishers Simon & Schuster said: “Herschel realized that his life, at times, was simply out of control. He often felt angry, self-destructive, and unable to connect meaningfully with friends and family.”

In October, Walker’s son Christian called his father a violent liar and hypocrite, who left his wife and children on several occasions for other women.

“How dare you lie and act as though you’re some moral, Christian, upright man. You’ve lived a life of destroying other people’s lives,” he wrote on Twitter.