’60 Min’ does hit piece on Oath Keepers, ignoring absence of violent history

CBS News’ “60 Minutes” sparked renewed backlash after airing what many saw as another hit piece, this time in a story focused on the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes.

Members of Oath Keepers were questioned on what they believe in, the fact that they received police training, and how they felt about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in the piece that ran Sunday and which declared that Rhodes was outside the US Capitol on the day of the riot, “but no charges have been brought against him.”

Sharyn Alfonsi, who conducted the interview, was the same person who criticized Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in Palm Beach County. Alfonsi was accused of deceptive editing in what many decried as a smear against DeSantis and she sparked outrage again with the Oath Keepers piece.

“The FBI describes them as an anti-government militia movement. Among them, current and former military and law enforcement. Their name is a reference to the oath they took to defend the U.S. Constitution,” she said in the “60 Minutes” segment.

“But unlike most other militia groups, we learned the Oath Keepers haven’t been hiding. They’ve been armed and in plain sight — broadcasting plans to mobilize,” she added.

(Video Credit: 60 Minutes)

Three members took part in the interview: Cathy York, Gary Harwoth, and Mike Rice. Jim Arroyo, head of the Chino Valley Chapter of Oath Keepers also took part in the interview and told Alfonsi: “Our guys are very experienced. We have active-duty law enforcement in our organization that are helping to train us. We can blend in with our law enforcement and in fact, in a lot of cases, our training is much more advanced because of our military backgrounds.”

The members interviewed spoke of civil war and the need to protect themselves. They emphatically spoke out against the Capitol riot.

An Oath Keeper was the first to plead guilty in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by cutting a deal with federal investigators and the group is being savaged online for claiming to be trained by the police. Schaffer was accused of storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 and targeting police officers with bear spray. He pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts: obstruction of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous or deadly weapon.

Jon Ryan Schaffer, the frontman of the heavy metal band Iced Earth, is the first Capitol riot attendee to strike a deal with federal investigators, reportedly hoping to get a lighter sentence. The Justice Department is reportedly considering placing Schaffer in the federal witness security program, according to U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta.

Schaffer was allegedly wearing a tactical vest and a baseball hat that read “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member” when the protest took place on Jan. 6. According to prosecutors, he admitted in his plea agreement that he is a “founding lifetime member.”

He was not charged in the federal case that involves Oath Keepers members and those connected to them. They are ostensibly accused of conspiring with each other to block the certification of the presidential vote.

According to court documents, the FBI claims that Schaffer “has long held far-right extremist views” and that he has previously “referred to the federal government as a ‘criminal enterprise.’”

Schaffer turned himself into the FBI within a few weeks following the riot after his face was plastered on an FBI poster asking people to identify him as a rioter.

In a tweet promoting the CBS show on Sunday, Rhodes was called out for being “on the Capitol steps on January 6,” noting that he has not been arrested, though no actual crime is mentioned. Rhodes has maintained that the Oath Keepers were in D.C. to help provide security during the protest.

The “60 Minutes” tweet also claimed that “members stashed weapons at a nearby hotel.”

The Justice Department has filed a number of charges against the Oath Keepers, including in a conspiracy case that now has 12 defendants. Earlier this month, they announced that two Oath Keepers members who were part of Roger Stone’s security detail have been added to a conspiracy indictment.

Social media was on fire by both supporters and detractors over the topic of Oath Keepers being trained by the police.

But many other Twitter users torched “60 Minutes” for its take on the group.

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