In Virginia House race, questions abound over Republican candidate and 'Bigfoot erotica'

PHOTO: Denver Riggleman, Republican candidate for Virginias 5th Congressional district, is seen here in D.C., June 20, 2018.PlayThomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images, FILE
WATCH On a mission to track and find Bigfoot

It’s been a summer of surreal political feuds and a Twitter controversy proved no exception: Leslie Cockburn, a Democratic congressional candidate for Virginia's 5th District, accused her opponent of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica,” providing a screenshot in which her opponent, Republican Denver Riggleman, references a book about Bigfoot that he co-authored.

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"My opponent Denver Riggleman, running mate of Corey Stewart, was caught on camera campaigning with a white supremacist. Now he has been exposed as a devotee of Bigfoot erotica," Cockburn wrote Sunday night.

"This is not what we need on Capitol Hill," she added archly.

The screenshot accompanying the post was captured from GOP rival Riggleman’s Instagram account and shows a drawing of a hulking, shaggy-furred creature with a “censored” box obscuring his genitals.

In another tweet, Cockburn provided a screenshot of the same Instagram account, in which Riggleman references a forthcoming book he authored, entitled “Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him.”

In an interview, Riggleman told ABC News that the images aren't really "Bigfoot erotica," which he denies ever having heard of before Cockburn's tweets, but are instead part of a running joke with military friends.

"We didn’t think anyone in the wide world would be dumb enough to think that was anything but a joke," Riggleman told ABC News, "but it went viral."

Upon seeing the news, Riggleman said his wife joked, "I wish you would have told me."

Cockburn isn't buying Riggleman's insistence that the posts were playful.

"He said it was a joke, but he’s actually written a book called 'Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him,'" Cockburn pointed out in an interview with ABC News. "If he’s bothered to write a book, I’d say that it’s more than just a casual one-time joke."

The Instagram account is no longer public, but Riggleman’s publications on Bigfoot can be viewed elsewhere: he is listed as an author of a self-published book, dated 2006, called "Bigfoot Exterminators, Inc.: The Partially Cautionary, Mostly True Tale of Monster Hunt 2006." The book is available online.

Riggleman weighed in on Twitter, denying the characterization that his interest in Bigfoot had anything to do with erotica.

"I sure don't know what Bigfoot Erotica is," Riggleman wrote, "but I can talk about Bigfoot theories all day."

Asked whether he believes in Bigfoot, Riggleman told ABC News, "here's the thing — I don't believe in Bigfoot, but I do not want to alienate Bigfoot voters. So, they are free to believe how they want to believe."

The Bigfoot controversy is just the latest in a series of twists to a contentious race.

The previous incumbent in VA-5, Republican Rep. Tom Garrett, came under an ethics investigation after staff alleged that he treated them "like servants." In response, Garrett announced that he was an alcoholic and that he would retire from Congress. The Virginia GOP then put forth Riggleman as the Republican candidate for the seat.

Cockburn has knocked her opponent for his alleged ties to neo-Confederate groups. Riggleman has been accused of campaigning with known white supremacist Isaac Smith, co-founder of white nationalist group Unity & Security for America.

"This race is quite the soap opera," Cockburn, a veteran journalist, told ABC News. "I was an investigative journalist for 35 years, and I’m continually surprised by this campaign."