CASPER — U.S. House candidate Anthony Bouchard had a relationship with and impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18, he told the Casper Star-Tribune late Thursday, hours after he disclosed the relationship in a Facebook Live video to his supporters.
Bouchard, who did not specify the girl’s age in the video, said he went public with the information to get ahead of the story after learning that people were investigating it in opposition to his candidacy. A Wyoming state senator since 2017, Bouchard has risen in prominence since announcing he would challenge Rep. Liz Cheney following her vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump.
“So, bottom line, it’s a story when I was young, two teenagers, girl gets pregnant,” he said in the Facebook Live video. “You’ve heard those stories before. She was a little younger than me, so it’s like the Romeo and Juliet story.”
Bouchard told the Star-Tribune he married the girl when she was 15 and he was 19. At the time, they were both living in Florida.
The two were legally able to get married at the time because Florida law stated that people could marry at any age with a judge’s approval if a pregnancy was involved and a parent consented, according to the lawmaker.
Details surrounding age of consent laws in Florida in the early 1980s are unclear, but the state’s current age of consent is 18. The Star-Tribune reached out to the Florida State Bar, Florida State University College of Law, the Florida attorney general, public defenders, current and former prosecutors, and multiple law firms, and none of them were able to offer substantial answers on Florida’s laws concerning age of consent at the time.
Bouchard said he was never charged with a crime in connection with the relationship.
The lawmaker said he was pressured to abort the baby.
“I wasn’t going to do it, and neither was she,” he said. “And there was pressure to have her banished from their family. Just pressure. Pressure to go hide somewhere. And the only thing I could see as the right thing to do was to get married and take care of him.”
They got divorced approximately three years later. Bouchard’s ex-wife killed herself when she was 20, he said. Online records list a woman with her name as dying in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1990 and being buried in Georgia. The Star-Tribune is choosing not to identify her.
“She had problems in another relationship. Her dad had committed suicide,” Bouchard said in the video.
After his ex-wife died, Bouchard said he continued to raise the couple’s son, Tony Raymond Bouchard, whom he briefly references in the video.
“Sadly, he’s made some wrong choices in his life,” Anthony Bouchard said. “He’s almost become my estranged son. Some of the things that he’s got going on his life, I certainly don’t approve of them. But I’m not going to abandon him. I still love him. Just like when he was born.”
In the 13-minute video, Bouchard looks straight ahead as he rails against “dirty politics,” the media and “the establishment swamp.” He encouraged his supporters to share the video, saying he wanted “everyone to know.”
“I don’t want to hide anything,” he told the Star-Tribune in a nearly hour-long phone call after the video was published. “I don’t want people drug into this. This is just crazy over politics.”
Bouchard said he decided to post a video to get ahead of a story about his previous marriage that he anticipated would be published in the near future. In the video, Bouchard claims that an unnamed reporter and a “political opposition research company” were driving the effort together.
“We know the company that started this investigation. It’s a political opposition research company. We know who they are and then it turned into a U.K. media reporter, is who’s called me,” he said.
Bouchard said he did not respond to the media outlet.
“This is really a message about how dirty politics is,” said Bouchard, one of Wyoming’s most prominent gun rights advocates. “They’ll stop at nothing, man, when you get in the lead and when you’re somebody that can’t be controlled, you’re somebody who works for the people. They’ll come after you. That’s why good people don’t run for office.”
Around 11 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail published its story about the pregnancy. It cited “an unnamed Republican operative” who is “in the Donald Trump faction of the party.”
“We want this to be known about him because we need to clean the field,” the operative is quoted as saying. “Five other candidates in the primary are going to split the vote in a small place like Wyoming, and Cheney is going to waltz in again.”
The article also detailed an unrelated criminal case against Bouchard’s son. Tony Bouchard was arrested in December 2018 and is being held in a central California detention center on $500,000 bond. He faces multiple sexual offense charges.
Anthony Bouchard announced that he would challenge Cheney in the 2022 Republican primary in January, one week after the congresswoman voted to impeach Trump on charges he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Bouchard was the first person to announce a run against Cheney but has since been joined by seven others.
His name recognition quickly grew, buoyed in part by conservative vitriol against Cheney, who was viewed by many in Wyoming as betraying Trump and the voters who supported him. Bouchard began appearing on conservative television news programs, and his campaign raised $334,000 by the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Trump said he would soon endorse a candidate to run against Cheney but has yet to do so.
Speaking by phone at a January rally held by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz at the Wyoming Capitol, Donald Trump Jr. told Cheney opponents: “Don’t just back the first person that comes along.”
Thursday night, in Bouchard’s Twitter post linking to the video, he concluded: ”I won’t back down, Swamp! @RepLizCheney Bring it!” And in the Facebook video, he said the people digging up the information only “care about ... helping people like Liz Cheney win.”
But in his conversation with the Star-Tribune, Bouchard said he believes Cheney was not involved in the attempts to publicize the story, which a Cheney spokesperson echoed early Friday.
“The Cheney campaign had no involvement in this at all,” Jeremy Adler said. Bouchard said the disclosure about his past relationship and the pregnancy wouldn’t stop him from seeking office.
“Bring it on. I’m going to stay in this race,” he said. “We’re going to continue to raise money because my record stands on its own.”
In response to the disclosures, the Star-Tribune reached out to other challengers in the 2022 GOP House of Representatives race. All but state Rep. Chuck Gray responded. They said they did not have any inkling that their pasts were being examined by political opposition firms in a way similar to Bouchard’s.
“While we don’t condone any of the actions, we always try to keep things positive and above board,” Cheyenne businessman Darin Smith said. “It’s unfortunate to see this kind of (dirty) mud-slinging starting this early. The Smith campaign will always try to keep things positive, above board, and we hope that other candidates will do the same.”
Former U.S. Senate candidate Bryan Miller, one of the most recent candidates to officially announce his candidacy, replied in a text statement to the Star-Tribune.
“There is nothing I could say that would alter the tragic events described in your story,” he wrote. “My focus is on addressing the critical issues that are facing Wyoming and our great Nation today.”
Robyn Belinskey, a Sheridan businesswoman who confirmed earlier this week she was running, said: “Well, as a woman, I found it very disrespectful and a lack of leadership.”
Former Pavillion Mayor Marissa Joy Selvig had a different response. “What’s in his past is in his past and that’s for him to sort out,” she said.
None of the candidates offered strong opinions about whether the disclosure would affect Bouchard’s candidacy. He has been the top fundraiser of any Republican challenger.
“It was unfortunate,” retired Army Col. Denton Knapp said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to affect him in this race.”