A Florida woman claims the state’s GOP leader—a former county commissioner elected on a “family values” platform—raped her early last month, according to a heavily redacted investigation report filed by Sarasota police.
The unidentified accuser told cops she and Florida Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler, along with Ziegler’s wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, had been in a “longstanding consensual three-way sexual relationship prior to the incident,” reported the Florida Center for Government Accountability (FLCGA), which first obtained the document.
Sources told the watchdog nonprofit the alleged assault occurred in the woman’s home, but that Bridget Ziegler was not there at the time.
The publicly released version of the document does not include any names, addresses, or other identifying information. But an accompanying story published by the FLCGA named Florida Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler as the subject of the probe, which NBC News said it later confirmed.
An investigative supplement filed by a “Detective Llovio” and attached to the report is almost completely censored.
“On 10/04/23, [redacted] reported [redacted] had been sexually battered [redacted] on 10/02/23 at [redacted] home [redacted] located at [redacted] Sarasota, FL,” it states.
The only other visible text in the page-and-a-half-long narrative are the words, “the sexual assault complaint,” and, “said the sexual assault allegation.” Elsewhere in the report, the words “stated” and “raped” can be seen.
Police have searched a cell phone belonging to Ziegler—who also allegedly recorded the woman without her consent during threesomes with him and his wife, according to sources cited by the FLCGA.
In a statement on Thursday, Ziegler’s attorney, Derek Byrd, said his client has been “fully cooperative” with investigators, and that he believed he would be “completely exonerated.” Byrd cautioned against rushing to judgment and argued that “public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain.”
Ziegler is closely linked to both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who recently namechecked Ziegler in a speech at this month’s Florida Freedom Summit.
“I want to thank a man that has done a fantastic job, the state party chair, Christian Ziegler, wherever you may be,” Trump said. “There are a lot of people out here. He has been really fantastic.
Bridget Ziegler is a MAGA darling in her own right, vocally backing book bans in public schools across the United States and providing support for DeSantis to help pass his so-called Don’t Say Gay law.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried on Thursday called for Ziegler to step down, and blasted the couple for “stunning” hypocrisy.
“Christian Ziegler can’t possibly continue to lead the Florida GOP under these conditions,” Fried said in a statement. “Given the severity of the criminal allegations, I’m calling for his immediate resignation. As for the more salacious allegations—what happens behind closed doors is Christian and Bridget’s personal business.”
Fried added, “That being said, I do find it interesting that two people who are so obsessed with banning books about gay penguins might be engaged in a non-traditional sexual relationship.”
Meanwhile, Moms for Liberty saw the news as an opportunity to tweet in Bridget Ziegler’s defense and suggest the probe into her husband was an attack on their group.
In a since-deleted post, Moms for Liberty wrote, “Yet another attempt today to ruin the reputation of a strong woman fighting for America.”
“#StrongWomen scare those that seek to destroy our country. We stand with @BridgetAZiegler & every other badass woman fighting for kids & America,” they added.
Christian Ziegler sang his wife’s praises at the annual Moms for Liberty summit in July, when he held a workshop titled “Mastering the Spin: Effective Messaging Strategies” and discussed how he and his wife got dinged in the press.
He said when his wife first got elected to the Sarasota County School Board, she “came home crying” over a negative news article about her; now they both joke about their detractors.
“We go back and forth and share who has the most hate of the day,” he said to laughter. Still, he warned the future community activists and school board hopefuls that the media would “burn them.”
“Reporters lie,” he said, “you don’t.” He also claimed that he dissuaded “big national reporters” from doing a “hit piece” on him in the past by warning he’d stop taking their calls.
“I talk to national reporters all day every day,” Ziegler said. “You guys may have seen some of the articles I’m in. I promise you I’m really not that bad.”
“But you know, 50% of them are really ruthless. And I'm not a big fan of the media. I like bypassing the media as much as you can. But unfortunately, they're a key component to this process.”