RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A candidate in a high-stakes legislative contest in Virginia had sex with her husband in live videos posted on a pornographic website and asked viewers to pay them money in return for carrying out specific sex acts.
Screenshots of Susanna Gibson on the website were shared with The Associated Press. The campaign for Gibson, a Democrat running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in a district just outside Richmond, issued a statement Monday in which it denounced the sharing of the videos as a violation of the law and her privacy. Gibson called the exposure of the videos “the worst gutter politics.”
“It won’t intimidate me and it won’t silence me,” she said in the statement. “My political opponents and their Republican allies have proven they’re willing to commit a sex crime to attack me and my family because there’s no line they won’t cross to silence women when they speak up.”
The Washington Post first reported the videos on Monday.
The revelation marked an explosive turn in a contest that will carry significant weight in determining the balance of power in the Virginia General Assembly. The race has attracted large amounts of spending and interest for an off-year legislative race.
Democrats control the Senate by a four-vote margin, and Republicans control the House of Delegates by the same margin, with four seats currently vacant. The parties are waging intense legislative battles as GOP rising national political star Gov. Glenn Youngkin looks to bolster his conservative agenda with full control of state government.
Gibson said that exposing the videos is “an illegal invasion of my privacy designed to humiliate me and my family.” Gibson’s attorney, Daniel P. Watkins, said that disseminating the videos is a violation of Virginia’s revenge porn law, which makes it a crime to “maliciously” disseminate or sell nude or sexual images of another person with the intent to “coerce, harass, or intimate.”
“A criminal act has occurred here, and that’s the dissemination of revenge porn by a Republican operative,” Watkins told the AP.
Watkins cited a 2021 Virginia Court of Appeals ruling that found it was unlawful for a man to secretly record his girlfriend during a consensual sexual encounter even if he did not show the video to other people. The court found that consent to being seen is not the same as consent to being recorded.
Gibson, 40, a nurse practitioner and married mother of two young children, won a Democratic primary in June and is running against Republican businessman David Owen in one of the most competitive districts in the state.
Owen’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did Garren Shipley, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert.
A top-ranking Virginia Democrat immediately came to Gibson’s defense after the videos were reported by the Post. “Now we are going to make this the biggest fundraising day of her campaign,” Sen. L. Louis Lucas said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Gibson and Owen are competing in the 57th District, an area that includes suburbs of Richmond in both Henrico and Goochland counties. The district chose Youngkin by a 51.2%-to-48.3% margin in 2021, but in the 2022 congressional midterm elections, the split in the district was 50% Democratic to 49.1% Republican.
Gibson has said the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade propelled her into the race.
Gibson had an account on Chaturbate, a legal website where viewers can watch live webcam performances that feature nudity and sexual activity, according to the screenshots reviewed by the AP. The videos show Gibson and her husband, John David Gibson, having sex and at times looking into the camera and asking viewers for donations in the form of “tokens” or “tips” to watch a private show.
Chaturbate videos are streamed live on that site and are often archived on other publicly available sites, the Post reported. More than a dozen videos posted under Gibson’s Chaturbate username were archived on one of those sites — Recurbate — in September 2022, the month after she announced her candidacy. The most recent were two videos archived on Sept. 30, 2022. It is unclear when the live stream occurred.