Alaska state Representative David Eastman has been called to resign after dozens of his fellow West Point graduates believe his involvement in a right-wing extremist group has betrayed the values of the academy they attended, the Associated Press reported.
A letter was signed by 69 fellow West Point graduates calling for Eastman to step down after his membership in the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist group, became public.
“We give it as our fixed opinion that, as a serving member of the Alaska State Legislature who has repeatedly emphasized your status as a veteran and a graduate, you have discredited yourself and betrayed the values of West Point,” the letter said. “We call on you to do the honorable thing and resign from office.”
Eastman had previously confirmed his membership to the organization shortly after it formed more than a decade ago. According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, Oath Keepers has tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members. The organization’s website says that Oath Keepers “is one of the largest far-right anti-government groups in the U.S. today.”
Ivan Hodes, a West Point graduate who served in the same military police battalion at Fort Richardson in Anchorage as Eastman, authored the letter after reaching out to other West Point graduates, saying he was concerned that Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, was violating his duties as a legislator.
“It’s OK for him to be an Oath Keeper as a private citizen. David Eastman has a duty here: he can choose to choose Oath Keepers or he can choose state government… It’s serving two masters,” Hodes said. “You can’t be loyal to the U.S. government and the government of Alaska and at the same time belong to this militia.”
Justin Raphael of Washington state also signed the letter and was in the same West Point graduating class as Eastman.
“His participation, anybody’s participation (in the Oath Keepers) is just utterly counter what being a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about upholding the Constitution and the constitutional process. Not a violent usurpation of that process,” Raphael said. “The fact that he’s a lawmaker, even in a state capacity, is deserving of rebuke.”
According to the Daily News, Eastman has been disinvited from events sponsored by the West Point Society of Alaska after he drew a comparison between Biden and Adolf Hitler in September and posted a link on social media that led to a Holocaust denial site.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
“I thought that the decent thing to do would be to offer an opportunity for resignation,” Hodes told the Anchorage Daily News.
Several members of Oath Keepers have been charged with crimes connected to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Eastman said he went to Washington that day to object to the Electoral College votes of several states confirming President Joe Biden’s election but didn’t participate in the demonstrations.
Hodes said he views the group and Eastman’s insistence that the current federal government is illegitimate as directly clashing with his responsibilities to uphold state and federal laws.
In an email to the Associated Press, Eastman on Tuesday said, “I stand with the 35,000 veterans and first responders whose only crime was pledging to support the Constitution and who are now being attacked for doing so.”
“I find it a very good thing that as Americans we have the right to choose our own elected representatives, rather than those outside Alaska and outside the Mat-Su choosing our elected representatives for us based on their values and what passes for journalism in some parts of the country,” Eastman said in an earlier email to the AP.
Eastman took office in 2017 and at times alienated himself from fellow Republicans in the state House over sometimes divisive statements.
Hodes at least hopes the letter will take away the option of Eastman claiming “the mantle of West Point” in his reelection campaign.
“I can’t guarantee that it will do any good, but we can’t do nothing,” Hodes said. “The reputation of the Academy is at stake.”