Cora Faith Walker: 'Betrayed' Feelings May Give Context to Outrage

click to enlarge Cora Faith Walker at Tishaura Jones' 2017 mayoral campaign party - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Danny Wicentowski
Cora Faith Walker at Tishaura Jones' 2017 mayoral campaign party

The last few days have seen a flurry of revelations about the passing of Cora Faith Walker, the chief policy officer for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

After her March 11 death, following the birthday party for her close friend Mayor Tishaura Jones, stories from the Post-Dispatch and other outlets stirred intrigue and criticized the Jones' administration's handling of the incident's aftermath, only to be met with sharp criticism from Jones' supporters and mounting evidence countering the narrative. The cause of Walker's death is still unknown.

Little explored, however, is the initial reaction to the news of Walker's passing, an outpouring of anger that extended beyond somber reflections for a lost friend and colleague. On March 13, Pamela Merritt, executive director of Medical Students for Choice, decried what she saw as hypocrisy by people who had let Walker down during her life.

Mayor Jones quickly retweeted the post and emphasized Merritt's sentiment.


Jones' spokesman did not immediately respond to the RFT's request for comment, but a close reading of these responses — as well as social media messages posted by Walker herself in November — suggest that they may be tied to lingering anger over the fallout from Walker's sexual assault allegations against Missouri State Senator Steven Roberts, who may challenge Representative Cori Bush for her U.S. House seat this year.

In 2016, before starting her first term in the Missouri House of Representatives, Walker accused Roberts, at the time also an incoming House freshman, of sexual assault. Walker claimed that Roberts drugged her, and she remembered being strangled and threatened with sodomy before passing out. The next day, she woke up confused and wearing only a T-shirt. Walker said she waited a day to tell her husband and then went to the hospital to have a rape kit administered. A month later, she reported what happened to police, and she asked the House Speaker not to seat Roberts.

Prosecutors declined to press charges, saying Walker's accusations lacked "credible evidence" to show that their interactions were non-consensual. Roberts filed a defamation lawsuit in response, claiming that his proof that their encounter was consensual included a nude photo of Walker and a receipt from Schnucks proving that they bought wine, pizza, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and condoms together. There was also security footage from Straub’s showing them together on the night in question. Walker counter-sued, reiterating her sexual assault and drugging allegations, and citing his suit for emotional distress.

In May 2019, both Roberts and Walker dropped their lawsuits. But animosity among Walker's supporters was revived when Roberts' successfully ran for Missouri senate in 2020. Around November, 2021, a group of St. Louis and Missouri Democratic political figures hosted a re-election fundraiser for Roberts.

click to enlarge TWITTER VIA @EL_LAMPRICH
Twitter via @el_Lamprich

The list included people Walker presumably perceived as allies, and seems to have particularly saddened her. (Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins said she declined to be on the host committee and shouldn't have been listed at all, and at least one other person apparently subsequently withdrew support for Roberts.)


Her spirits, however, seem to have been lifted by an outpouring of support on social media.

Following Walker's death, many angry feelings among Walker's supporters resurfaced, culminating with Pamela Merritt's tweet and Jones' endorsement, which seemed to reference the betrayal.  

Lingering anger against Roberts and his supporters threatens to spill over into his potential primary challenge against Cori Bush. And yesterday, The Intercept published a story detailing suspicious editing of Roberts' Wikipedia page, in an attempt to suppress sexual assault allegations against him. The issue does not seem likely to go away soon.

“You saw the good in everyone even when they couldn’t see it in themselves,” Mayor Jones said at Walker's memorial service, reading a personal letter to Walker. “You were fiercely loyal to your friends, even if they weren’t loyal to you.”

See also: Cora Faith Walker Controversy: Everything We Know

Ryan Krull contributed reporting to this story

Email the authors at [email protected]

About The Authors

Rosalind Early

Rosalind is the editor-in-chief of the Riverfront Times. She formerly worked for Washington University's alumni magazine and St. Louis Magazine. In 2018, she was selected as a Rising Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group. In 2014, she was selected as an Emerging Leader by FOCUS St. Louis. Her work...

Ben Westhoff

Ben Westhoff is the author of the books Original Gangstas, Fentanyl, Inc., and Little Brother: Love, Tragedy, and My Search For the Truth.
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