Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a Republican who has announced his intention to challenge Republican Rep. Liz Cheney for her House seat, acknowledged late Thursday that he had impregnated a 14-year-old and had a relationship with her when he was 18, comparing the teen intimacy to Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”
Bouchard first acknowledged that he impregnated a girl when he was 18 in a Facebook Live video, but did not initially disclose her age. He confirmed to the Casper Star-Tribune that the girl was 14 and the couple, who were both living in Florida, later married when she was 15 and he was 19.
“So, bottom line, it’s a story when I was young, two teenagers, girl gets pregnant. You’ve heard those stories before,” he said in the Facebook Live video. “She was a little younger than me, so it’s like the Romeo and Juliet story.”
An 18-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old is considered statutory rape in most states. His actions would have been illegal under current Florida state law. It’s not clear what Florida’s laws were at the time as Bouchard did not specify the year the woman was impregnated. In cases where a pregnancy was involved, Florida law at the time allowed for people to marry at any age with a judge’s approval and consent from a parent.
Bouchard did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. He noted in his Facebook video that there was “pressure to abort a baby,” but claimed he and the woman, who has not been publicly identified, wouldn’t allow it.
“And there was pressure to have her banished from their family. Just pressure. Pressure to go hide somewhere,” he said on Facebook. “And the only thing I could see as the right thing to do was to get married and take care of him.”
The couple divorced after three years of marriage. Then, about two years later, the woman killed herself when she was 20, Bouchard said to the Star-Tribune. The paper found that a woman had been buried in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1990. The lawmaker said the woman “had problems in another relationship.”
“Her dad had committed suicide,” he said on Facebook Live. “For whatever reason, she decided to do the same.”
Bouchard coming forward with news of his past is the latest wrinkle in what’s expected to be a contentious 2022 Republican primary against Cheney, who was ousted last week from her role as third-ranking House Republican for her continued criticism of former president Donald Trump’s continued false claims about the 2020 election. The Wyoming state senator has joined the Republican chorus in Washington against Cheney, saying her vote to impeach Trump after the failed insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob was “an outrage.”
His reference to “Romeo and Juliet,” a tale of two star-crossed lovers who both ultimately die, dominated social media for much of Friday. While Juliet is 13, Romeo’s age is not mentioned in the tragedy. In Florida, where the relationship between Bouchard and the female teen unfolded, the state created a “Romeo and Juliet” law in 2007 in which teens could be tried and convicted if they had sex with younger teens, even if it was consensual.
A self-described “pro-liberty, conservative Republican,” Bouchard made the jump into politics after a career as an automotive technician; his family still owns a septic-draining business. He was also a lobbyist for Wyoming Gun Owners, a gun rights group he founded.
A state senator representing Laramie and Goshen counties since 2017, Bouchard has seen his public profile increase after announcing in January he was challenging Cheney. He is running ads that paint her as having betrayed the state with her impeachment vote of Trump. Bouchard, a loyal Trump supporter who has #MAGA in his Twitter bio, has been joined by several other GOP hopefuls trying to unseat Cheney. His campaign had raised more than $334,000 by the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The state senator tweeted that he was speaking out about the past relationship because “investigators have been hounding my family for weeks and now the liberal fake news is coming out with a hit piece about my teenage years.” He pointed to “dirty politics” in his Facebook video, but did not explicitly name Cheney or any politicians. Bouchard claimed that the efforts of an unnamed British media reporter and a “political opposition research company” were why he wanted to disclose the news.
Cheney campaign spokesman Jeremy Adler declined to comment on Bouchard’s past relationship. He denied that the congresswoman’s campaign played any role in pushing the story.
“Absolutely not,” he said to The Washington Post.
Messages left for the Wyoming Republican Party and the state Senate were not immediately returned Friday.
During the 13-minute video, Bouchard was emotional in recalling how the couple’s union “ended in kind of a bitter divorce.”
“All the odds were against us,” he said, adding that they later became friends.
Bouchard choked back tears in mentioning the couple’s son, who he said he continued to raise after the woman died. He noted that “he’s made some wrong choices” and that “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,” he said in the video. “I still love him. Just like when he was born.”
He was also angry he had to talk about what happened in Florida, saying, “Can’t we let people rest in peace?” Bouchard, who vowed to stay in the race for Congress, claimed on social media that the information was coming to light now only because he was seen as a threat to defeat Cheney.
“They wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t the front-runner,” he said in the video.