UPDATE: 5:20 p.m.:
The founder of the Oath Keepers, a loosely organized anti-government militia group, criticized Ammon Bundy for protesting the arson convictions of a pair of Oregon ranchers shortly before Bundy led the takeover of an empty national wildlife refuge on Saturday.
Stewart Rhodes, president and founder of the Oath Keepers, posted a video statement on the ranchers’ situation in which he criticized the son of infamous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy for taking up the cause of Dwight and Stewart Hammond. Rhodes branded those involved with Ammon Bundy’s protest as “potheads.”
“The Oath Keepers will not be involved in an armed stand off that’s being manufactured by potheads who want a fight because this is going to be a bad fight, not a righteous moral high ground fight,” Rhodes said in the video, which was posted Thursday.
A spokesman for the Oath Keepers, Jason Van Tatenhove, said in an email that the video the organization posted online had been edited and that Stewart could be heard saying “hot head” in the original version.
On Saturday, Bundy led group of armed militia members who splintered off from a peaceful protest march in support of the Hammonds and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
A lawyer for the Hammonds has said Bundy doesn’t speak for the father-son duo. Rhodes pointed to that as a reason why Bundy should call off his protest.
“If they don’t want their family in the middle of an armed stand off, I don’t think it’s right for us to go in there and try to force that on them,” Rhodes said. “I think that’s the wrong way to go.”
The Hammonds, who were convicted of arson in 2012, have already served time in jail for setting a fire that spread to federal land. But an appellate judge recently ruled that the two men needed to serve additional time in keeping with the federal mandatory minimum sentence for the crime.
Bundy has argued that the Hammonds weren’t given a fair trial, which Rhodes also disputed in his response.
“If you’re gonna stand up against abuse, you better have your ducks in a row and be able to show that this was not a fair trial,” Rhodes said.
Bundy posted his own response Friday to Rhodes’ video and said that while he has respect for Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder “does not understand what is truly transpiring or he has chosen to be in opposition.”
Bundy also asserted that he spoke to the Hammonds, whom he suggested gave his group their blessing.
“They have said multiple times that this is about Harney County, that this is about the United States and each person in it, that if we do not stand and put these things to an end that what has happened to them will happen to more and more people,” Bundy said. “And it is that simple. That the blatant violations of the Constitution will become the normal, will become a precedence. This is their message, that this is what they have very clearly communicated to me. That this is more than about them and that they support us standing.”
Watch Rhodes’ video statement on the Hammond situation below:
And watch Bundy’s response to Rhodes: