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Constitutional Sheriffs Association CEO Doubles Down on Hate Group Associations in the South

Sam Bushman, CEO of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), attended a barbecue this summer hosted by a known white nationalist. Bushman also guested on a radio show syndicated by his online network alongside a host who praised Hitler.

The July barbecue and radio appearance finished off a month when Bushman joined and promoted an event held by a neo-Confederate hate group in South Carolina featuring many who attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bushman is a founding staff member of the CSPOA. Previously CSPOA’s national operations director, Bushman became the organization’s CEO on Nov. 1, 2022, when the group’s founder, Richard Mack, left the position. Mack became chair of the group’s advisory board and maintained his roles as CSPOA’s key spokesperson and law-enforcement trainer.

CSPOA tries to convince county sheriffs that they are the highest law enforcement authority in the country and have the power to decide which laws are constitutional, promoting the misconception that the nation’s sheriffs have the power to pick and choose what laws will, or will not, be enforced in their counties. CSPOA often villainizes the federal government and dismisses the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The group uses in-person events, an online television show, social media, books authored by Mack and law-enforcement training sessions held across the country to attract sheriffs and members of the public to its extreme belief system. On May 25, Texas banned CSPOA from offering “constitutional” training to law enforcement in the state.

The relationships between CSPOA leaders like Bushman and Mack with U.S. white supremacists are an unfortunate continuation of the racist origins of the constitutional sheriff movement  The movement began in 1970 with William Potter Gale, who developed the Posse Comitatus. Gale was a member of two conspiratorial extremist groups, the John Birch Society and the Constitution Party.

Gale was angry about federal support for school integration, an issue he used to recruit like-minded individuals into opposing the federal government and its courts. He was also closely involved with the racist and antisemitic Christian Identity theology, which espouses the belief that Caucasians are God’s chosen people while Jews are spawned by the devil.

Jews, according to Gale, were also part of a satanic conspiracy to destroy America. In 1982, Gale said live on the radio, “If a Jew comes near you, run a sword through him.”

Posse Comitatus, Latin for power or force of the county, was originally a British practice that allowed sheriffs to draft citizens into a posse that would assist them in enforcing the law. Gale exported and perverted the Posse Comitatus concept, making claims that U.S. counties were the only legitimate American government entities and U.S. sheriffs were the only legal law enforcement.

Gale declared that sheriffs had the power to call up private militias as a posse, and that those militias could remove federal officials from office or execute them. While displaying their racist beliefs and fighting the federal government, members of the Posse Comitatus threatened and committed acts of intimidation and violence including murder against farm workers, law enforcement and federal agents.

Starting in 2011, CSPOA renewed Gale’s version of the Posse Comitatus by declaring county sheriffs to be the highest law enforcement authority in the country, with the power to block federal government activities and laws within their county borders. This idea is fundamentally untrue. According to Feb. 24 testimony from Mary McCord, executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, who testified on Montana’s HB604 Sheriffs First bill, the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause means that states cannot interfere with the exercise of the federal government’s power through its officers. Therefore, it is unconstitutional for sheriffs to keep federal agents from enforcing federal law in their counties.

Despite the falsity of the concept that Gale developed, which instigated citizens and sheriffs against the federal government, CSPOA continued his trajectory, advocating for and acting upon it. Members of the group, including its leader, attended a standoff against the U.S. government in Nevada in 2014. Mack would later support HB 85, a 2021 law passed in Missouri that allowed county sheriffs to arrest and fine federal officers who enforced federal gun laws. However, a U.S. District Court found HB 85 unconstitutional this March. In 2022, during a CSPOA presentation to the Oath Keepers in Yavapai County, Arizona, Mack described as a success story the tasing and arrest by local police of an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) during the course of his job. Hatewatch determined that the story Mack wrongly accredited to the sheriff’s department was most likely about a 2018 incident involving police officers in Columbus, Ohio. The subject of the arrest, ATF agent James Burk, later sued the city of Columbus over the arrest, claiming his civil rights were violated. The city settled with Burk for $440,000 in November 2022.

CSPOA has also leaned toward the racist right on multiple occasions. Mack co-wrote a book with white supremacist Randy Weaver. CSPOA recently added Michael Peroutka to its advisory board. Peroutka is a former member of neo-Confederate hate group League of the South. On a July podcast, Bushman publicly complained about not being able to use blackface.

Bushman has also publicly promoted racist ideas and hobnobbed with hardcore white nationalists. During Bushman’s tenure at CSPOA, he has also owned an online radio station, Liberty News Radio (LNR). Bushman’s station, as previously reported by Hatewatch , syndicates multiple radio shows with extreme and racist content, including antisemitism, white nationalism and the myth of white genocide.

One of the shows that LNR airs is “The Political Cesspool” (TPC), hosted by white nationalist James Edwards. The show’s motto is “Pro-Christian (God), Pro-White (Family), Pro-South (Republic).” Its guests have included known extremists in the white nationalist and neo-Confederate movements, including former Klan leader David Duke, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler and members of the League of the South.

Bushman doesn’t just employ James Edwards as owner of LNR. Bushman is also a consistent guest on TPC, and his relationship with the show goes further than just business. While hosting Bushman on the show in January 2020, Edwards described him as “the owner of this network that syndicates us, a lifelong friend and what a guy.”

Edwards hosted Bushman at the July barbecue at his home, along with his former TPC co-host Eddie Miller. Miller is a former Oath Keepers militia member whose bio says that he “advocates for the white race.” He currently hosts “Blood River Radio” (BRR), which is also syndicated by Bushman’s LNR. BRR’s theme is the false concept of white genocide, a term white nationalists use to describe the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that claims white people are being replaced and wiped out by a non-white population.

BRR declares they “are the only media whose sole purpose of being is to fight against the ever-rising tide of global white genocide, both soft and hard genocide […] in the form of ethnic cleansing via the current mass of invasion of non-white non-Christian hordes that are overwhelming the once all white nations.”

Miller hosted a recent episode of BRR from the barbecue at Edwards’ home. Bushman and Edwards were both guests. The following regular guests appeared on the episode:

  • Nancy Hitt, who was once a correspondent for The First Freedom, an antisemitic, racist, neo-Confederate paper found in the apartment of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
  • Holocaust denier Monika Schaefer, who was convicted of incitement to hatred in Canada in 2018.
  • Rayn Owens. A man with that name has been the Alabama chapter leader of the League of the South and has a Facebook page where he shared a meme of the march in Charlottesville that states, “Tomorrow Belongs to Us.”

During the second half of the show, the host and some of the guests held a discussion about former Vice President Mike Pence. Miller declared, “If I’d have been standing within ten feet of [Pence], I think I would put him on a ventilator, but like our people said, I’d probably be writing letters from jail, too.” To which a woman asked, “Who said the good people meet behind bars?” Another person piped up with “the Führer,” and another agreed, saying, “Wasn’t that our hero, Adolf Hitler?” Miller replied: “He was. He’s my hero.”

Miller went on to claim that the country’s leaders are controlled by Jewish people who want white people and Christians dead. Five minutes later, another guest repeated the longtime antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish people control everything.

Bushman never opposed the comments about Hitler’s heroism or the antisemitic or conspiratorial messages the host and guests were making. He also didn’t shut the show down or keep it from airing or being syndicated by his online radio network. These measures were all within his power as owner of Liberty News Radio. His decision not to denounce any of the rhetoric, or take any action to limit the program’s distribution, seems at least to indicate a level of comfort with the viewpoints expressed, if not a tacit endorsement of them.

In addition to Bushman’s seeming support and syndication of public hate discourse, he also attended and promoted an event hosted by a ne0-Confederate hate group earlier in July. The Southern Poverty Law Center defines the neo-Confederate movement as a “subset of American white nationalism predominant in the Southeastern U.S. that fuses the typically strong, nativist immigration policies, Christian dominionism, Confederate ‘heritage and pride’ and other supposedly fundamental values of the ‘heritage crowd’ with a belief in the inherent superiority of whites of European descent.”

On July 8, Bushman broadcast his own radio show, “Liberty Roundtable,” at an annual event called “Dixiefest” at Dixie Republic, a store in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, run by a hate group that sells neo-Confederate merchandise. Bushman repeatedly promoted Dixiefest to his listeners on the show. He made it clear that he was also there to support Dixie Republic and have a good time. According to Bushman, James Edwards was apparently rounding up guests for the show.

The guests included a man who goes by the pseudonym Padraig Martin, a Southern secessionist who wants to see an all-white South and says he did a stint in prison related to his time in the military. He previously attended Unite the Right in Charlottesville, where the original rallying cry “Jews will not replace us” shocked the nation.

More recently, Martin, while speaking about Unite the Right and the Jan. 6 insurrection, called on right-wing protesters to “be prepared to kill them all” the next time they marched. “Do not leave a single police officer, congressman, judge or any other functionary of government alive,” said Martin, who later declared, “Half measures are no longer an option.”

Martin is an author for Identity Dixie, another neo-Confederate hate group that has been linked to a variety of militia, neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups. He has said an independent South should be all-white or white-run, and he presented at the 2023 neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS) conference, which coincided with Dixiefest at the same location. Martin started his speech talking about interracial rape, telling the audience, “Your women are targeted.”

Another guest who goes by the pseudonym Manse Jolly, also the name of a controversial Confederate soldier, made his displeasure with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, known for having the Confederate flag removed from the South Carolina Capitol. The man disdainfully called her by her birth name, Nimarata, and told Bushman, without pushback, that “She wanted to dictate to the native people here what our culture should be, when she’s just an interloper.” Haley was born to immigrant parents who are Sikh-Punjabi.

Bushman also spoke with a craftsman who called himself Johnny Reb and a man devoted to the task of putting up a new monument for a Confederate ancestor. Bushman also appeared as a guest on TPC while at Dixiefest, joining James Edwards to chat about his time there.

Despite his enthusiastic appearance at Dixiefest and his clear friendships, business partnerships and radio appearances with individuals who consider Hitler a hero or call for a return to the Dixie-era Old South, Bushman has continually sought to downplay the overt and subtly racist nature of the shows, groups, associations and events with which he is aligned.

In a previous interview with Hatewatch, Bushman claimed to be a proponent of free speech and intriguing political conversations. He claimed James Edwards, who is linked to multiple white nationalist, neo-Nazi and neo-confederate groups and hosts a show filled with white nationalist rhetoric, “is a good guy” and “not a white supremacist.” He has said people “can agree to disagree,” while at Dixiefest, and pointed to a “Christian camaraderie and general understanding” to justify his time talking to “dozens and dozens and dozens of people” at the event.

Although he attempts to make these connections seem benign, Bushman’s alliances are anything but. During the July BRR show, the point was made that “Without ‘Liberty News Radio’ there would be no ‘Blood River Radio,’ there would be no ‘Political Cesspool,’ there would be nothing like that at all.” This identifies Bushman as a very real force behind the spread of hate, one which gives such people as Eddie Miller, Padraig Martin and David Duke the bully pulpit.

His other job is to communicate and radicalize law enforcement through CSPOA. Amplifying this is the fact that the organization’s main spokesman, Richard Mack, also has a history of working and appearing with both antisemites and white nationalists.

Bushman makes no apologies for these associations. When Hatewatch asked him about them in a series of email questions, he chose to address them instead on a Sept. 20 episode of his radio show, “Liberty Roundtable.”

Bushman said he doesn’t feel the need to oppose the comments of Hitler. “Personally, I believe Hitler was a bad guy. That’s my personal opinion. … I don’t like Hitler at all. I don’t like what he stood for. But he did some good things.”

The crossover between racism, antisemitism and other forms of extremism are nothing new for the constitutional sheriff's movement. In fact, these ideologies are deeply embedded in the movement’s founding ideology.

Photo illustration of (from left) Eddie Miller, Sam Bushman and James Edwards by SPLC

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