From Yale to Jail: Who is Oath Keepers’ Founder Stewart Rhodes?

After a stint in the military, Stewart Rhodes accidentally shot himself in the eye, made his wife strip in nightclubs to pay for his education and, according to her, was violent even to his children, trying to choke his 12 year old daughter.

Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the founder of the Oath Keepers and four others individuals linked to the far-right, anti-government group are now on trial for seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from the deadly assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

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Rhodes is in the first group of Oath Keepers on trial, and the second group trial will happen in November. Two of the 11 people indicted in the case – Brian Ulrich and Joshua James - have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and are cooperating with the government. 1

In this episode we discuss Rhodes’ military career, his personal life and his trajectory from Yale to jail. Rhodes served for 2 years and 7 months and was never deployed in a combat area. He failed the Special Forces Qualification Course after the first week and was discharged with a temporary disability. Soon afterwards, he dropped a gun and shot himself in the eye, hence the eyepatch. 2

He then married Tasha Adams, she was 18 at the time, he was 25. According to his now estranged wife, he made work full time as a stripper to pay for his education and even pushed for her to take things further with the men in the club she was dancing in.

After graduating from Yale with a law degree, he gets a clerkship for a judge on the Arizona Supreme Court but his extreme views get him out the door quite fast. 3

This is when he starts formulating the idea of starting an extremist organization. He formally launched the Oath Keepers in Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 2009.

1. Ryan Lucas. In a big Jan. 6 case, Oath Keepers go on trial for seditious conspiracy. NPR. September 2022. 

2. Drew Lawrence. What the Military Records of the Oath Keepers' Leader Actually Say About His Service. May 2022. 

3. Jacques Billeaud and Lindsay Whitehurst. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.... Associated Press. September 2022. 

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