Moms for Liberty founder’s husband under investigation for rape

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On Oct. 4, a complaint was filed with the Sarasota, Florida Police Department by an unidentified woman alleging that she had been raped by Christian Ziegler, Florida’s GOP chairman. Christian Ziegler is also the husband of Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of the national Moms for Liberty organization, an extremist right-wing advocacy group.

As a result of these accusations, at least one Moms for Liberty chapter is on pause as it breaks from the national organization, according to The News-Item. The Northumberland County chapter chair Clarissa Paige is currently seeking nonprofit status for Northumberland County Alliance. Paige cited the allegations against Ziegler as her reasoning for starting the alliance.

“It’s hard to advocate for parental rights when the co-founder is caught up in the scandal,” Paige said. “Our values are not aligning with the national organization.”

The report containing the allegations against Ziegler, obtained by the Florida Trident, was redacted, including withholding the complainant’s name. The Sarasota Police immediately opened an investigation, but no criminal charges have been filed as of yet. Among the allegations made in the report by the complainant is that she claims she had been involved in a three-year consensual three-way sexual relationship with both Zieglers. However, the alleged sexual assault was said to have occurred when she and Christian Ziegler were alone at the woman’s home in Sarasota, without Bridget Ziegler present. It is also alleged that Christian Ziegler secretly videotaped the three-way sexual encounters.

In a written statement, Christian Ziegler’s lawyer, Derek Byrd, denied the charges, saying that his client is cooperating with the investigation, predicting that Christian Ziegler will be “completely exonerated.” 

In recent years, the Zieglers have been one of Florida’s most prominent Republican power couples. Christian Ziegler served as a Sarasota County Commissioner who ran on a “family values” platform before becoming a mover and shaker in Florida’s Republican Party machine as the state party’s vice chairman. He was elevated to the post of chairman in February of this year.

His wife Bridget Ziegler gained national prominence as one of the co-founders of Moms for Liberty, a right-wing extremist group best known for its national efforts to ban LGBTQ+ books from schools. She worked closely with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to craft the state’s infamous “don’t say gay” bills, which outright bans any discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in the state’s schools. In fact, she stood behind DeSantis when he signed the bill into law. Subsequently, DeSantis gave her his personal endorsement when she ran — and won — a seat on the Sarasota school board. While she has stepped down from official involvement with Moms for Liberty, she continues to advocate for its agenda.

Clearly, the Zieglers’ star in Republican state politics has been rising. In March, DeSantis appointed Bridget Ziegler to the state board that oversees the special district previously overseen by Disney World prior to DeSantis’ feud with the company. DeSantis sought to punish Disney for the entertainment company’s criticism of his “don’t say gay” legislation, as well as Disney’s ongoing vocal support of LGBTQ+ rights.

But given recent developments, the Zieglers’ star may be waning. Acknowledging the political reality that Florida Republicans will be facing some difficult races in 2024, DeSantis has suggested that Christian Ziegler should resign while police investigate the allegations against him. Speaking to reporters after his debate last week against California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Fox News, DeSantis said, “He’s innocent till proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny. The mission is more important.”

In addition, the organization Bridget Ziegler co-founded, Moms for Liberty, has faced setbacks of late. In the recent elections, M4L-endorsed candidates for local school boards and city councils lost their bids on a national level by a greater than two-to-one margin. M4L’s poorer than expected electoral showing caught the Republican establishment by surprise, given the group’s explosive growth and success rate since its founding in 2021. Pundits have speculated that this development signals not only that the public is turning against M4L’s agenda and tactics, but also that M4L’s perceived clout was overestimated. Grassroot opposition to M4L has grown at a rate comparable to M4L’s own expansion.

The Ziegler investigation is also indicative of an issue that has been increasingly problematic for the greater Republican Party for some years, but has recently acquired greater significance — allegations of sex-based crimes. Christian Ziegler has joined a stellar roster of Republican luminaries — Matt Gaetz, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump — that have been charged or are being investigated for such crimes.

The taint of sexual misconduct and sex crimes is spreading to an ever-growing list of Republican organizations as well, even to such well-connected groups as Turning Point USA. And now Moms for Liberty has joined the parade.

However, Christian Ziegler is not the first M4L-affiliated Republican whose misconduct is embarrassing the “family values” organization. The most recent revelation came from Philadelphia. Last week, the Inquirer reported that Phillip Fisher Jr., who coordinates faith-based outreach (including to children) for Philadelphia’s M4L chapter, is a registered sex offender. In 2012, Fisher was convicted of one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy (out of 12 counts originally filed against him in Chicago). Fisher is also a pastor and local Republican ward leader.

According to the Inquirer, Fisher previously worked for the political action committee of Lyndon LaRouche, a prominent conspiracy theorist who ran for president multiple times. Fisher said his conviction was the result of a “railroad job” concocted by Larouche’s organization, which Fisher referred to as a cult, after he tried to break free. Sheila Armstrong, chair of the Philadelphia M4L chapter, denied knowledge of Fisher’s record.

It’s unclear how much of an impact these revelations will have as the presidential election season gains steam, particularly since the MAGA-dominated Republican Party seems ever more willing to dismiss or disbelieve the accumulating revelations. One thing that is clear is that the issue is not going away any time soon.