Dozens of West Point graduates have demanded state Rep. David Eastman resign from office over his ties to a right-wing extremist group, saying his affiliation has betrayed the values of the U.S. Military Academy that he attended.
A letter signed by 69 fellow West Point graduates was published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman and called on Eastman to resign after his membership in the Oath Keepers became public, with another name added after publication. Eastman had previously confirmed to the Anchorage Daily News that he became a member of the organization shortly after it formed more than a decade ago.
“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.”
Ivan Hodes, a West Point graduate living in Anchorage, authored the letter. He served in the same military police battalion at Fort Richardson in Anchorage as Eastman.
“I thought that the decent thing to do would be to offer an opportunity for resignation,” Hodes told the Anchorage Daily News.
Hodes said he reached out to other West Point graduates because he was concerned Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, was violating his duties as a legislator.
“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.”
Several members of Oath Keepers have been charged with crimes connected to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 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.
“It’s OK for him to be an Oath Keeper as a private citizen,” Hodes said. “David Eastman has a duty here: he can choose to choose Oath Keepers or he can choose state government.”
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.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center says Oath Keepers claims tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans. The law center says on its website that Oath Keepers “is one of the largest far-right antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”
“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.
He was 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 leading to a Holocaust denial site, the Daily News reported.
Another person who signed the letter was Justin Raphael of Washington state, who was in the same graduating class as Eastman at West Point.
“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.”
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.”