Archived Opinion

Clampitt’s Oath Keeper membership an embarrassment

Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Swain. Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Swain.

I know Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Swain, and he’s a likeable, personable guy whom I disagree with on a lot of issues concerning how best to govern North Carolina. Political and ideological differences, though, are healthy and make for good debate and are the cornerstone of our representative democracy. Finding common ground amid those differences is how good government works.

However, count me among those bothered by Clampitt’s membership in the Oath Keepers, a controversial far-right group whose members tend to show up heavily armed at events around the country. 

Clampitt’s affiliation as an avowed member of this loose-knit organization became a topic of discussion back in October when ProPublica acquired a list of the group’s members from an anonymous hacker. According to the story, published Oct. 20, Clampitt’s name appeared on a list of more than 35,000 Oath Keepers that was presented to ProPublica from its source.

The list contained Clampitt and “47 more state and local government officials … all Republicans: 10 sitting state lawmakers; two former state representatives; one current state assembly candidate; a state legislative aide; a city council assistant; county commissioners in Indiana, Arizona and North Carolina; two town aldermen; sheriffs or constables in Montana, Texas and Kentucky; state investigators in Texas and Louisiana; and a New Jersey town’s public works director.”

To Clampitt’s credit, his name being on this list was not the breaking news ProPublica made it out to be. He’s been upfront about his membership in the Oath Keepers since an interview with The Smoky Mountain News in 2014 and in voter information guides dating back to 2012. 

Just last week Clampitt had this to say about the organization to The Smoky Mountain News’ Cory Vaillancourt: “I would not say it’s a militia. I never attended a meeting in the past that there was any armed participation and organized attempt to conduct any kind of paramilitary training or education. [It’s] concerned citizens that wanted to ensure that their rights aren’t infringed upon by the federal government.”

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Though Clampitt is obviously not intricately involved with the Oath Keepers, most in law enforcement don’t think the organization is as innocent or benign as he makes it out to be. According to the FBI — which with its staff size and investigative capacity likely are better informed than me or Clampitt or — the Oath Keepers are a “large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.” By one count at least 17 Oath Keepers were charged after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots with conspiring to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Clampitt and other elected leaders who claim membership lend credibility to an organization that has, at most, 30,000 members in a country with 330 million citizens. The group seeks former military, law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel as members, which — as a former firefighter — is likely how Clampitt got involved.

And since he claims membership, Clampitt will be associated with the organization’s beliefs and actions. The Center for Strategic and International Studies — whose board members include former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Richard Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — has this to say about the group: “Before their well-documented participation in the January 6 Capitol assault, the Oath Keepers were involved in several confrontations with local and federal authorities, as well as with far-left political protesters and rioters. So far, these confrontations have all been nonviolent, but the Oath Keepers’ heavily armed presence at emotionally charged and sometimes chaotic events remains a significant concern due to the potential for violence stemming from deliberate or miscalculated actions.”

Clampitt says he support the Oath Keepers fundamental beliefs about limited government, and among those beliefs is a list of “10 Orders We Will Not Obey.” So, if Congress or the state legislature, as duly elected representatives, vote to do something the Oath Keepers disagree with, will Clampitt support Oath Keepers who take up arms against what they consider an inalienable right? One can’t support and swear an oath to obey the Constitution but then make their own determination as to what exactly that oath means.

Look, we’ll always have far left and far right organizations in this country, and right now the militia movement has gained a disturbingly strong toehold in the Republican Party as defined by President Donald Trump. If this is where Clampitt wants to be, so be it. But, I for one, wish he would disavow his membership in this organization. It’s just embarrassing for his constituents and this region. 

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Leave a comment

4 comments

  • "No man can serve two masters" If Clampitt keeps his oath to the Oath-keepers, he cannot honorably keep his oath of office as an elected official. He needs to make up his mind where his loyalties lie, and resign from the other. Otherwise he is simply a hypocrite looking for fame and fortune, and doesn't care about anyone but himself.

    posted by Deb Lawley

    Monday, 11/08/2021

  • The correct term is “unalienable rights” for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    There is nothing to be ashamed of for people who understand the Declaration of Independence.
    It does seem Scott knows much about these things or the Constitution.

    posted by Carol Odom

    Friday, 11/05/2021

  • Scott, you are utterly out of touch with reality. Oathkeepers is not a far right group, but you are so far left, any centrist is far right. Anyone "concerned" by elected officials belonging to such a group really needs to get a grip.

    Anyone citing the FBI kills their own credibility. What we have seen over the last 10 years is how corrupt the organization is. Paul Ryan is just as bad.'

    The constitution was written for the people, not lawyers or courts. The increasing corruption of the courts as allowed them to tell us the clear meaning of the constitution is false. Rule of law has come to mean nothign in the US. Your leftist opinions are just one symptom of the much larger problem that you, and other far leftists, represent. This isn't a small disagreement as it goes to the heart of our Republic.

    posted by Quartermaster

    Friday, 11/05/2021

  • There is nothing wrong with Mike Clampit, the Oath Keepers or Donald Trump. But there is plenty wrong with you Scott McLeod.

    posted by Lucille Josephs

    Wednesday, 11/03/2021

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