SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Herschel Walker, GOP Georgia Senate nominee, responded to questions he once paid for an abortion saying, “Well, as I say, that’s a lie.” Walker made the comments just feet away from his Democratic rival Sen. Raphael Warnock, as the two met in their only debate Friday ahead of the November 8 general election.

“I say that’s a lie and I’m not backing down,” Walker said. “We have Senator Warnock that would do anything and say anything for his seat, but I’m not gonna back down. This seat is too important to the Georgia people.”

Warnock responded saying that an extremist Supreme Court had taken a core protection from women, and that “a patient’s room is too narrow and small and cramped a space for a woman, her doctor and the United States government.”

Walker retorted, “But he did not mention that there was a baby in that room as well,” garnering applause from the audience.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Walker paid for and encouraged an abortion in 2009 for a woman with whom he later fathered a child. In interviews earlier in the week, Walker replied “no” when asked if he ever had a conversation with the woman at any time about an abortion and whether he ever gave anyone money to pay for an abortion. “She’s lying,” he said of his accuser.

The reporting by The Daily Beast complicates Walker’s candidacy in multiple ways. Supporting an absolute national ban on abortions as a candidate, Walker faces questions from at least some skeptical religious conservatives now weighing their preference for Republican rule against the possibility that Walker’s personal life has not matched his public profile.

Yet Walker’s evolving explanations — initially insisting he had no idea who could have claimed he paid for her abortion, only for the woman to identify herself as the mother of one of Walker’s four children — have undermined his absolute denials and given Democrats a fresh opportunity to press their assertions that he’s “not ready” for the Senate.

That’s an argument Warnock has aimed at the middle of the Georgia electorate, including GOP-leaning voters who helped Biden narrowly win Georgia in November 2020 and then elevated Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff to Senate runoff victories two months later.

“I think Georgians will see there is a very clear choice,” Warnock told reporters earlier this week after speaking to voters in Atlanta. “Do you know what’s not close? It’s the difference between me and my opponent. And I think that will become clearer and clearer.”

Warnock, who supports abortion rights, previously avoided the specifics of the allegations against Walker.

The Daily Beast reporting includes records, supplied by the woman, that include a $575 receipt for an abortion, a get-well card signed by Walker and a bank deposit showing a $700 personal check from Walker, dated five days after the abortion receipt. The woman, who has not been identified by name, also told The Daily Beast that Walker encouraged the abortion and then encouraged a second abortion that she refused, giving birth to a child she says Walker has met only a few times.

Previous reports have detailed how Walker exaggerated his academic achievements, business success and his philanthropic activities, as well as accusations that he threatened the life of his ex-wife.

Walker, who had spoken publicly about adult son Christian Walker, was forced to publicly acknowledge having three additional children — including the child of the woman who said he paid for her abortion — after another Daily Beast story earlier in the campaign. Christian Walker has drawn his own headlines since the latest Daily Beast reports, blasting his father as an absentee father and a “liar.”

The outcome of this heated Georgia race has gained importance with Republican nominees in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Arizona potentially underperforming in races the GOP had targeted heading into the 2022 election season.

Political pundits pointed to Friday’s debate as a key moment in Walker’s candidacy. You can watch the full Warnock- Walker debate here.

While the race remains close, Warnock was leading Walker by two points according to a WSAV/Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey released Tuesday.

The poll had Warnock at 48 percent and Walker at 46, with four percent still undecided. Those numbers represent a 4-point swing for the Democratic incumbent who was trailing Walker by two points in August. Warnock’s support is driven by women, the poll found, with 51 percent of female voters backing the senator compared to 42 percent behind Walker.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)