Is the Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots no more?
The group’s organizer, Gary Stein, yesterday took down the Facebook page through which over 400 people had signed on in recent weeks. And according to the San Diego Union Tribune, Stein, an active duty Marine Corps sergeant, also canceled an interview with MSNBC.
Stein didn’t immediately respond to our latest request for comment on the group’s status. But the Union-Tribune reported that Stein had been “called back to the base to go over the Pentagon’s directive on political activities,” and advised of his right to an attorney, though the Marine Corps is not looking to press charges. A spokeswoman for Camp Pendleton, where Stein is stationed, said that the sergeant’s supervisor “was concerned that his activities … could give the appearance or impression that the Marine Corps is endorsing the group and its messages.”
The brouhaha came after Stein promoted his group in a press release sent out by the broader Tea Party Patriots group, and in an interview with TPMmuckraker, in which he argued that members of the military have a right to express political opinions and engage in political activities. On the group’s Facebook page, Stein had written that the military doe snot have to follow orders that are unconstitutional, and referred to a “tyrannical government.” Military law experts said Stein and his group may be approaching the line of what’s acceptable for active duty personnel.
Stein subsequently released a statement affirming that his group did not support a military uprising and viewed President Obama as the legitimate commander in chief.
Late Update: Stein responds via email to say that the Facebook page is back up and that the group has been started back up under the name “Armed Force Tea Party”. “Things are going well,” he wrote.
Stein said he has “been talked to” about Pentagon directives on political activities, and that he would be mindful of those directives. He stressed that the Armed Force Tea Party group is not endorsed by the Marine Corps or the military, and is focused on promoting fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.