Bigfoot is now a campaign issue in a Virginia race for U.S. Congress.
Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn took to Twitter on Sunday to accuse her Republican opponent Denver Riggleman of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica.”
Riggleman said the attack stems from satirical Instagram posts depicting a nude Sasquatch.
Riggleman told News4 that he does not believe Bigfoot exists but that he's fascinated by the mythology of the ape-like creature.
He accused Cockburn of taking out of context pieces of a long-running joke he’s had with friends. He said he didn’t know a subset of erotic fiction depicting sexual encounters with Sasquatch existed until Cockburn brought it up.
"This has been one of the most bizarre, surreal and funny things I’ve ever experienced," he said.
The two are running in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. It runs from the North Carolina border to Northern Virginia and includes Charlottesville.
The seat is currently held by Republican Tom Garrett, who announced that he's an alcoholic and will not seek re-election.
Cockburn's first tweet about Bigfoot is accompanied by a screenshot of an Instagram post showing a hand-drawn hairy, bearded figure with a censored bar over the groin area.
The Instagram caption says “Cover art for #matinghabitsofbigfoot almost complete. I hide nothing in this magnificent tome. Don’t erase the censor box….”
Cockburn then tweeted a second screenshot depicting Sasquatch with another censored bar and a crudely pasted square photos of Riggleman on the head.
The caption reads, “My “buddies” thought this pic was fitting for my birthday next week and to celebrate my new book release in about a month or 2… “Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him…”
The tweets caught fire, and the story has gotten national coverage.
The Cockburn campaign declined to say whether they had evidence Riggleman had written Bigfoot erotica.
"Sounds to me like the same old 'locker room talk’ defense. Denver is just more of the same,” Cockburn’s campaign manager, Louise Bruce, said in a statement.
Riggleman said he did write a book titled "The Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him," but it’s not erotic fiction. The cover image he posted on Instagram was a joke from a friend, he said.
Riggleman said the unpublished book is a collection of Bigfoot stories shared among friends for more than a decade.
“All of the stuff you see is just 14 years of joking,” he said.
Riggleman told News4 he helped write a short story with outdoors writer Don Barone. It is titled, “Bigfoot Exterminators Inc. The Partially Cautionary, Mostly True Tale of Monster Hunt 2006.”
Riggleman, who is a co-owner of Silverback Distillery in Nelson County, Virginia, accused Cockburn of distracting voters with the erotica allegations posted to her Twitter account.
During the campaign, Cockburn has faced accusations of anti-Semitism, and Riggleman has been accused of supporting white supremacists.
The Republican Party of Virginia accused Cockburn, a former investigative journalist, of anti-Semitism over a 1991 book she co-authored. She has denied the claim.
The book, called "Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship," examines the history of relations between the two nations.
Melvin Leffler, a public policy scholar and history professor at the University of Virginia, told The Roanoke Times "the book contains no evidence that Cockburn is anti-Semitic."
Bruce did not address the Virginia GOP's allegations that Cockburn’s book was anti-Semitic.
Bruce drew a stark contrast between the two candidates, warning Riggleman would continue Garrett’s “far right voting record.”
She tied his candidacy to Senate hopeful and Republican firebrand Corey Stewart. Cockburn took on Washington special interests when she was a journalist and gave voice to people unable to speak for themselves, her spokeswoman said.
The pro-Democrat group Blue Virginia accused Riggleman of campaigning with Isaac Smith, who they called a white supremacist. Smith is one of the founders of Unity and Security for America, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper called the organization "a fledgling group that calls for 'defending Western Civilization.'"
Riggleman wrote an editorial published in the Roanoke Times on July 25 renouncing white supremacy.
He quipped Monday that Cockburn's mudslinging may not play well in the rural areas of the district, warning she could be "alienating Bigfoot voters."