A state senator in Wyoming who's running against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and four others in a Republican primary acknowledged he impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18, vowing not to end his campaign for Congress.
It was a disclosure he said he was forced to make because of "the establishment swamp," but he did not explicitly blame Cheney or any of the other candidates in the race.
"Everybody has something in their life that they did ... We’ve all had these problems. Why is this a big deal?" state Sen. Anthony Bouchard said Thursday in a Facebook Live video about the relationship.
"So, bottom line, it's a story when I was young. Two teenagers, girl gets pregnant. You've heard those stories before. She was a little younger than me, so it's like the Romeo and Juliet story," he said.
In the 424-year-old William Shakespeare tragedy "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet's age is given as 13, but Romeo's age is not mentioned. The age of consent in England at the time was 12.
Bouchard did not mention his age or the girl's age in the video, but later told the Casper Star-Tribune that she was 14 and he was 18 at the time he impregnated her in Florida, where the age of consent was and remains 18.
Bouchard did not return a call and email for comment from NBC News on Friday.
He said he tried to "do the right thing" and told the paper he married the girl when she was 15. They later went through what he described as "kind of a bitter divorce," and Bouchard told the Star-Tribune the ex-wife died by suicide when she was 20.
He said he was speaking out because the "establishment swamp" had investigators digging into his past on behalf of an unidentified opponent. Bouchard was the first Wyoming Republican to announce that he was challenging Cheney for her seat, and four others have since joined the race.
"They'll stop at nothing when you get the lead," Bouchard said in the Facebook post. "They don't care about anybody's lives" and "can't see that I did the right thing."
Bouchard said his family life "wasn't the best" growing up in Florida and he'd started living on his own when he was 15.
After he got the girl pregnant, he said "there was a lot of pressure" for her to get an abortion. "I wasn't going to do it and neither was she," Bouchard said.
"The only right thing to do was get married and take care of them," he said. The mother of the girl, whose name was withheld by the Star-Tribune, "signed the papers" consenting to the wedding and the pair "went down and got married before a judge," he said, which was "pretty scary actually when I was that young. But I've got to tell you I'd do it again. I'm not saying I'd make the same choices. By golly, we all make choices... We all deal with it," he said.
"My son got to experience things and live life. Sadly he's made some wrong choices in his life. He’s almost become my estranged son, some of the things that he’s got going on in 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," Bouchard said.
The marriage to the boy's mom lasted about three years, Bouchard told the Star-Tribune. He said in the Facebook video that he and his ex-wife became friends after the split, and the ex, who "had problems in another relationship" and a family history of suicide, died by suicide.
He said he was angry to have to talk about the incident.
"Can't we let people rest in peace?" Bouchard said, adding his opponents "wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't the frontrunner."
"If this is the best you've got, bring it on," he said.
Bouchard told the newspaper that a “political opposition research company” had been behind unearthing the story and that he had been contacted by a reporter from the U.K., although he did not name them.
The Daily Mail posted an article later Friday, indicating they were the outlet and that the opposition research had come from a Republican interested in ousting Cheney who was concerned Bouchard would undermine that effort.
Bouchard told the Star-Tribune he did not believe Cheney was involved in attempts to publicize the story.
Her spokesman, Jeremy Adler, told the paper, "The Cheney campaign had no involvement in this at all."
Bouchard announced he was challenging Cheney in January, after she voted to impeach President Donald Trump. Bouchard said he was running because her "long-time opposition to President Trump and her most recent vote for Impeachment shows just how out-of-touch she is with Wyoming."