Denver Riggleman is a Republican candidate for the U.S. House in Virginia, who is a distillery owner and former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer.
In a strange twist of events, Riggleman was accused of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica” by his Democratic opponent in the race, Leslie Cockburn, a former journalist who is the mother of actress Olivia Wilde. He denies the accusation.
You can see screenshots of the Bigfoot-related posts from Riggleman’s social media pages later in this article.
Riggleman and Cockburn are running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District. They are battling to fill the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Tom Garrett, who announced his retirement to seek alcoholism treatment “amid reports he had sent staffers on inappropriate personal errands,” according to Cook Political Report. It’s a seat Democrats are hoping to flip.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Riggleman Denies the Accusation That He Is a Devotee of ‘Bigfoot Erotica’
Cockburn lobbed the “Bigfoot erotica” accusations at Riggleman on her Twitter page on July 29, 2018, sharing two Instagram posts she said he made that showed censored photos of Bigfoot.
However, according to The Daily Progress, Riggleman told the newspaper “the posts do not originate from ‘Bigfoot erotica,’ but are a joke his military friends played on him.” He also told the newspaper that he never thought the posts “would be used against him politically” and labeled Cockburn’s tweets “absurd.”
Louise Bruce, Cockburn’s campaign manager, responded by doubling down, telling the Daily Progress, “Leslie has been traveling throughout the district meeting with real people about real issues that matter to them. Meanwhile, Mr. Riggleman is home scrubbing his social media of ‘Bigfoot erotica’ and who knows what else.”
Complicating matters, Daily Progress reported that Riggleman has actually co-authored a Bigfoot-related tome called “Bigfoot Exterminators Inc. The Partially Cautionary, Mostly True Tale of Monster Hunt 2006” but reported, via a source, that it’s about people who look for Bigfoot and is not “Bigfoot Erotica.” For her part, Cockburn has come under fire for a book she co-authored that is called “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship” and that was accused of being anti-Semitic by the state GOP, according to Daily Progress.
Riggleman’s opponent made the bizarre claims about Riggleman on her Twitter account on July 29, 2018. “From my opponent Denver Riggleman’s Bigfoot erotica collection,” she wrote with a tweet accompanied by an image she said Riggleman posted of Bigfoot.
Here’s the tweet with her caption:
According to Cockburn’s screenshot, this purported Instagram post of Riggleman read, “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 Woman Want Him.’”
In a second tweet, Cockburn wrote, “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. This is not what we need on Capitol Hill.” This is the image that accompanied that tweet:
Here’s that tweet with her caption:
According to Cockburn’s screenshot, the caption for this purported Riggleman Instagram post read, “Cover art for #matinghabitsofbigfoot almost complete. I hide nothing in this magnificent tome. Don’t erase the censor box…”
Riggleman’s Instagram page, which has 17 posts on it, is now set to private. “Own a distillery, consult on DoD matters and had a fun run for Governor. Love whiskey, hate tyranny and embrace liberty. Whiskey Rebellion always!” his profile reads.
It includes a link to the website for Silverback Distillery, which he owns.
Heavy has found more Bigfoot-related posts on Riggleman’s personal Facebook page.
“Many of you know I’m a closeted novelist with interests that can be eclectic. Cover art almost done for my new, exciting and salacious tome: ‘The Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him’. Here’s a tease,” he wrote on April 12, 2018. Here’s the post:
He wrote in the comment thread, “If this picture makes you too uncomfortable to ‘like’, then I have done my job.” One woman joked, “I am fascinated by his really long thighs,” to which Riggleman replied, “It’s a Bigfoot thing!” He added, “Thighs are very important in Bigfoot Mating Habits.”
He also shared a story about a woman who claimed she saw Bigfoot that also referenced his “new book”:
In the comment thread, Riggleman wrote, “I think people are going to be ‘surprised’ by this book. Very…it’s not just about old Bigfoot.”
The post that shows Bigfoot with Riggleman’s head superimposed over it is still visible on his Facebook page from March 2018:
He’s been referencing the Bigfoot book since 2017, although it’s not clear whether he actually wrote it.
In other posts, he references monkeys or gorillas, sometimes in connection to his distillery. For example, he shared a video that said, “Silverback’s newest creation, Strange Monkey Barrel Finished Gin, is being released on Saturday November 11th” and he shared a joking video of a man surrounded by silverback gorillas, and wrote, “How I met my wife… her former boyfriend should not have visited my troop.”
In 2016, he wrote, “As you know, we are called ‘Silverback Distillery’ and we are proud to support any function that benefits the Virunga National Forest and those awe inspiring gorillas.”
What’s up with the bigfoot book? That’s unclear. According to Cook Political Report, “the most curious element of Riggleman’s background may be a recently-deleted Facebook author page appearing to promote a self-published book titled ‘The Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him.'”
Heavy has reached out to Denver Riggleman for comment and will update this story if it’s received.
In the July 27, 2018 article, which ran two days before Cockburn’s tweets, Cook Political Report noted that Riggleman’s Instagram account “was once peppered with images of what can only be described as Bigfoot-themed erotic art” and added that one friend chocked it all up to his “offbeat sense of humor.”
2. Riggleman Is a Retired Air Force Intelligence Officer
Riggleman’s campaign website biography highlights his military experience.
“Between 1992 and 1996, Denver served in the United States Air Force (USAF) as a C-141 Starlifter enlisted avionics technician at McGuire AFB, New Jersey,” it says.
“Denver was awarded a scholarship to the University of Virginia in 1996. He graduated in 1998 and then subsequently served as a commissioned officer with the 366th Fighter Wing and 34th Bomb Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and in the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland.”
A 2017 article in The Washington Post described Riggleman this way: “As an Air Force intelligence officer after 9/11, he planned bombing raids over Afghanistan. As a small-business man, he overcame maddening bureaucracy to build a distillery outside Charlottesville. As a land owner in the path of a proposed natural gas pipeline, he went toe-to-toe with an energy giant.”
Chosen by activists to be the Republican nominee for Congress, Riggleman has promised to join the conservative House Freedom Caucus if elected, according to The Washington Post.
3. Riggleman Once Launched a Failed Run for Governor & Was Described as Having a ‘Libertarian Streak’
Cook Political Report noted that the district tilts slightly for Donald Trump and, thus, Riggleman would normally be the favorite to win but declared the race unpredictable, adding that Riggleman “ran a short-lived campaign for governor last year and has a libertarian streak.”
The Washington Post also reported that he tilts Libertarian, and says his run for governor didn’t last long. According to The Washington Post, He “ran as a populist,” driven by “regulatory roadblocks” his family dealt with when they opened their business, Silverback Distillery, which is located near Charlottesville, Virginia. “He also highlighted his battle with Dominion Power, which at one point planned to route a large natural gas pipeline through his property,” The Post reported.
Riggleman hadn’t addressed his opponent’s Bigfoot erotica accusations on his Twitter page in the hours after she first posted them. His top post is a link to an op-ed in which he rejects white supremacy, writing, “To any white supremacists intending to come back to Charlottesville on August 12 this year, I say this: You are not welcome.” His Facebook page’s top post is the same op-ed.
What’s with the Corey Stewart reference in Cockburn’s tweet? Stewart is the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia who was the subject of a CNN article that reported in June 2018: “Virginia Republican Senate nominee Corey Stewart endorsed anti-Semitic congressional candidate Paul Nehlen months after Nehlen shared content from a prominent white nationalist who praised the violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.” The article doesn’t mention Riggleman. Cockburn has accused him of not saying he won’t campaign with Stewart.
4. Riggleman & His Wife Christine Distribute Gin, Vodka & Whiskey & Riggleman Was Born in Manassas
Riggleman’s campaign bio also pitches his small business experience, saying, “Denver Riggleman and his wife, Christine, dreamed for years of starting their own distillery, and in 2013 built, and now operate, Silverback Distillery in Afton, Virginia. Denver and his wife currently distills and distributes Gin, Vodka and Whiskeys. Denver has also been CEO of several defense contracting companies.”
The bio says Riggleman grew up in Manassas, Virginia. According to his Facebook page, Riggleman studied Eastern European Studies/Former Yugoslavia at University of Virginia and went to Stonewall Jackson High School in what he defines as “Bull Run, Virginia.” He lives in Afton, Virginia.
On Facebook, he wrote, “I have created jobs in this district, my wife has created jobs in this district, my daughter was born in this district, my father lived in this district, plus with me being a veteran and understanding how to build a business from scratch, but also being able to address veteran issues and farming issues.”
Cockburn’s campaign biography says she was a journalist for decades. “Leslie’s distinguished career in journalism spanned thirty-five years. A producer for CBS News ’60 Minutes’, a correspondent for PBS ‘Frontline’, a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton, a writer and author, Leslie has won two Emmys, two George Polk Awards, two Columbia Dupont journalism awards, and the Robert F. Kennedy Award,” the bio reads. Her husband, Andrew, is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. According to the bio, the actress Olivia Wilde is one of their three children.
5. Riggleman Once Had a Health Scare & Expresses Love for His Wife on Social Media
In other Facebook posts, Riggleman talks about losing weight, his love for his wife, and a health crisis, writing, “Hello everyone. As most know I had a bizarre heart event back in March 2015, a combination of misdiagnosis and my increasingly expanding backside coupled with bad health habits almost cost me the rest of my life…”
He is married to Christine Riggleman. He wrote of his wife on Mother’s Day 2018, “Happy Mother’s Day to the light of my life, the mother of my daughters and Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee, Christine Blair Riggleman. Whoever thought that this wonderful woman would still be hanging out with me? Incredible. She is a genius, creator, survivor, nurturer and most important of all… a ‘bad’ mother.”
Riggleman says on Facebook that he is also CEO at Cyber Safari LLC. He is critical of govenrment, once writing, “In the introduction of ‘Liberty Defined’ by Ron Paul, a paragraph struck me. I’ve read it multiple times. It is profound: ‘The choice we now face: further steps towards authoritarianism or a renewed effort in promoting the cause of liberty. There is no third option…the abysmal shortcomings of a government power that UNDERMINES the creative GENIUS of FREE MINDS and PRIVATE PROPERTY must be understood (caps are mine).’ We all must stand. I have experienced this very power against me and have seen it employed with impunity against others..and it’s in our power to change it.”
He also wrote, “Pro-growth tax policies work! Our economy grew at 4.1% in the second quarter, the fastest rate of growth in nearly four years. I will work to pass more pro-growth policies in Congress.”