DALLAS, Texas — A North Texas constable and county commissioner deny being fully engaged or part of the Oath Keepers after their names ended up on a membership database that the Anti-Defamation League turned into an interactive map Wednesday following months of research.
The Oath Keepers are a far-right extremist and militant group that has become known for its role in the U.S. Capitol Riot, storming the building to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Multiple members are now facing charges, including its founder Stewart Rhodes who has North Texas ties.
To learn more about the group and its history, click here.
The ADL crafted its database when the non-profit journalist collective Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) published more than 38,000 names from a leaked Oath Keepers membership list in September 2021.
Ever since, the ADL has been pouring over the names and connecting them with public databases. It found that Texas is home to 3,301 Oath Keepers -- the most in America.
Of those numbers, the ADL reported that eight are elected officials, 33 are in law enforcement, 10 are in the military, and seven are first responders.
However, the ADL acknowledged on its website, "It's important to acknowledge that some individuals in the Oath Keepers database may have initially joined because they were sold a watered-down version of the group, and some may have disavowed the group since signing up."
Alex Friedfelt, an investigative researcher who poured through the names, said the membership database doesn't explain anyone's involvement with the Oath Keepers, only that the names listed once paid money or a membership fee to the organization.
However, there's no way to verify if payments were made to the group unless a person on the list admits to doing so.
"At some point, these names paid dues to this group. And it raises serious questions about how they are using their power and ability to protect and fight for their constituents," Friedfelt said. "We don't know whether these people remain Oath Keepers or their level of engagement with the group at any time."
Two active county constables ended up on the list: Hood County Constable John Shirley and Collin County Constable Joe Wright.
Shirley has been a known member of the Oath Keepers and a leader of the group at times. However, he told WFAA on Wednesday that he resigned publicly from the group on November 24, 2020.
On the other hand, Wright told WFAA that he never directly engaged with the Oath Keepers -- but suggested he paid dues for membership in 2011.
At the time, the Oath Keepers group was still in its infancy, and members were often seen at Tea Party rallies, a conservative movement that began amongst Republicans in 2009.
In a statement, Wright condemned what the Oath Keepers stood for and what they have since done:
"I do not agree with or support any extremist groups or individuals who take subversive actions against our government. In 2011, as a new candidate, I was invited to re-affirm my commitment to uphold my oath of office should I be elected. At the time, I believed the Oath Keepers existed only to encourage elected officials to honor their oath of office, follow the law and to uphold the Texas and U.S. Constitution.
I never directly engaged with, communicated with, nor attended any of their meetings during that time, or any other time, nor did I ever renew my membership. I swore an official oath to protect and defend the Constitution and laws of this state, and the United States, and I shall continue to do so.
I will not be answering any more questions on this issue as I have no involvement with this association or anyone connected to this association whatsoever."
Ellis County Commissioner Paul Perry's name was also on the list. The ADL told WFAA the only thing next to his name was a date: June 10, 2012.
Perry, at the time, was running for his seat on the commissioner's court.
Yet, Perry told WFAA Wednesday night he never had any contact with the group that he remembers and that at the time in 2012, he was running for office and had no time for anything else.
“I have no memory of paying dues to the Oath Keepers, and I had no idea they were political activists when they started. I thought ‘Oath Keepers’ meant keeping an oath to your family, religious beliefs, and constitution. That was my understanding of who they were, but it’s morphed into something else. I don’t condone entering the U.S. Capitol or government buildings unlawfully.”
Perry didn't stop there.
“I also condemn groups burning police buildings and trying to force entry into federal courts months before. I’m concerned that extremism on the right and left could spin out of control.”
Perry also questioned the validity of the database put together by the ADL and the reasons for publishing it.
"Trying to pull up something on someone ten years ago feels a lot like 'McCarthyism' or guilty by association to me. It appears the intent is to compromise as many conservatives as possible using questionable means--this is an election year, after all."
WFAA asked Friedfelt if it was possible people on the list were deceived by the Oath Keepers in any way, especially a decade ago when conservative fervor was intense in Texas with a Democratic president and the Oath Keepers making sure to be part of it all.
"I think those instances are rare. This group, from its founding, spread extremist ideas. This doesn't feel like a case where people just signed their names and ended up on a membership list. People on these lists paid money to this group to show support for the organization," Friedfelt said.
The other names of note in Texas -- per the ADL -- are as follows:
Steven Glenn: Alderman – Quitman, TX
Mark H. Szyman MSG, USA (ret): Asst. Secretary, Board of Directors – Faulkey Gully Municipal Utility District.
Joseph Thomas Giusti: Commissioner – Galveston County, Precinct 2
Jeff Lyde: Sheriff – Clay County
John Chris Hooper: Sheriff – Nueces County
Carl Hudman – Chief of Police, Howe Police Department
Timothy Green – Chief of Police, Tom Bean Police Department
Eric Williams – Chief of Police, Idalou Police Department
Paul Bourquin – Chief of Police, Amarillo ISD Police Department