On Sunday, Democratic congressional candidate Leslie Cockburn made the race in Virginia's Fifth District the most talked-about contest in the country when she played the old accuse-my-opponent-of-being-into-bigfoot-erotica card. Cockburn tweeted out a screenshot of an Instagram post from GOP candidate Denver Riggleman that appeared to be a teaser for a book called Mating Habits of Bigfoot, complete with a crudely drawn bigfoot illustration that implied the mythical beast was well-endowed. "This is not what we need on Capitol Hill," Cockburn said in her tweet, which sparked a wave of news coverage and social media commentary that boiled down to, "Hey get a load of this!"
Bigfoot erotica is a surprisingly popular subgenre, but is Riggleman actually a "devotee"? I don't know about you, but I don't find the drawing all that erotic. Maybe there's saucier stuff in his Instagram, but it's set to private—and the candidate expressed surprise that this post became, well, a thing. “We actually thought it was a bit of a joke, because everything about it was a joke,” Riggleman told VICE News.
It certainly looks like a crude joke. "There is no way that anybody’s dumb enough to think this is real," Riggleman told the Washington Post. According to Heavy.com, the candidate has a history of making jokes about writing a book about the "mating habits of bigfoot," a pattern also noted by the normally very buttoned-up Cook Political Report in its preview of the race.
If nothing else, Cockburn's gambit has helped draw national attention to what otherwise have been just one of dozens and dozens of obscure midterm contests. But there's not much to this whole erotica thing once you look into it for more than a second. Riggleman evidently thinks it would be funny if bigfoot were both real and had a big dick. And he does seem to be genuinely interested in the creature—back in 2006, he was involved in a fairly jokey "hunt" for the monster that was written up as an "Amazon Short" by a journalist named Don Barone. Riggleman got a coauthor credit for the story, titled "Bigfoot Exterminators Inc," but it was clearly mostly Barone's project.
"He wrote some stuff in it, designed some kind of Bigfoot van diagram," Barone told me over email. "I didn’t have a problem with him being co-author, as it was just a tongue in cheek thing. Amazon sold it for 99 cents, I got 12 cents a sale…I think in total I got $9."
So does Riggleman have a real interest in bigfoot porn? It doesn't seem so. And so what if he did? In a statement, Cockburn's campaign manager said she was "traveling throughout the district meeting with real people about real issues that matter to them" while Riggleman "is home scrubbing his social media of ‘Bigfoot erotica’ and who knows what else.” But the insinuation that he is into some dark shit because of his bigfoot jokes seem like a stretch.
The oddest thing about this bigfoot erotica kerfluffle is that it has tended to obscure Cockburn's more serious charge, which is the allegation that Riggleman campaigned with white supremacist Isaac Smith. (Riggleman denounced white supremacists in a recent op-ed.) But perhaps it's not surprising that "bigfoot erotica," not the racism accusation, is what ended up drawing eyeballs to this race: These days, accusations that a Republican has white supremacist ties are hardly breaking news.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.