[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
Pete Santilli insists that militiamen saved his life from drug cartels trying to assassinate him during his “Border Convoy,” a publicity stunt held earlier this month to focus anger about Central American refugee children arriving in the United States.
But his fellow participants are not so sure, leading to a far-right internecine feud between Santilli and his chief cohort in the convoy, a longtime Tea Party organizer named Eric Odom, who Santilli has accused of “co-opting” and “psy-opping” the event and smearing him with accusations of alcoholism, and Odom dismissing Santilli as a “borderline lunatic.”
While problems trailed the convoy along its entire route through the Southwest, tensions culminated in an early morning panic whipped up by militiamen warning that the hotel in Van Horn, Texas, was surrounded by drug cartels preparing to ambush the convoy.
As the convoy described events in a press release, “most convoy members didn’t even know ‘Operation Secure Our Border’ Citizen Militia groups were watching over them for their own protection. But thanks to the quick and decisive evacuation ordered by the Texas Citizen Militia groups, convoy members may very well have been protected from potentially dangerous and deadly outcomes.”
However, Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo ridiculed the report and said it was most likely “fake.” “Nothing of that nature happened here,” he said.
According to the El Paso Times, Carrillo’s detectives interviewed several hotel owners in the area and could find no witnesses that the event had even occurred. Carrillo also noted that there was no Comfort Inn in Van Horn. (Odom now said that the press release misidentified the hotel. It was the Quality Inn in Van Horn, not the Comfort Inn.)
Santilli, however, has wasted no time denouncing Odom.
“This Border Convoy thing was an absolute bloody train wreck, by design,” he told listeners last week. “It was designed that way. It was designed to be train wrecked. You were designed to be co-opted. Your original concept of stopping buses was so powerful that it drew the likes of probably one of the most disgusting co-opters in the Tea Party and Conservative movement, in my opinion, and his name is Eric Odom.”
Santilli went on to describe Odom as a “functioning alcoholic,” and implied that he was a puppet sent in to wreak havoc with right-wing causes, saying “his job is to destroy” such efforts. He also decried the convoy’s organization, noting that its itinerary was kept a secret, which made it difficult for would-be supporters to join in along the way.
Odom, Santilli told his listeners, revealed his true character when the militia came knocking on their door, warning them they were about to be ambushed:
He was an enemy and a bastard. And when it mattered most, and we had to evacuate the hotel, and we had women in there, and we had innocent people that could have been harmed. Forget about who may or may not have surrounded the hotel. We were in a dangerous situation that the militia had deemed to be — that we were in a hot zone and we had to go. And at a moment, a critical moment, he said, ‘Look, I’m drunk right now. This is just too much for me to handle. I’m outta here. You guys are on your own.’ And he left and went back to his hotel room, and had us blocked in.
But while Santilli had concluded that the militias “were the true patriots of the day,” Odom offered Hatewatch a markedly different account of events.
“We had gotten in to the hotel at 2 a.m. from El Paso, and yeah, everyone had a couple of beers because it had been a long day, and there was nothing wrong with that,” Odom told Hatewatch. “My response when I came out was that I had only slept for two or three hours. I didn’t see any cartel around. All I saw was heavily armed militia guys in bandanas and AR-15s. And I didn’t want to leave the rest of our convoy there at the hotel. So what I said was that I was going back in to make sure that the rest of our guys were ready. And we’re going on to San Antonio.”
Odom said that the militiamen produced no evidence that they were being set up for an ambush by the cartels, and that he was hesitant to follow orders to bug out. But he stopped short of completely dismissing the threat. What he did say was that the panic created an opportunity for his group from Murrieta to separate themselves from Santilli and his militiamen.
“We just wanted to get away from Santilli and the rest of those guys that came with the militia as quick as possible, because that was derailing us from what we wanted to do,” Odom said. “We had a different agenda that we wanted to accomplish, and it didn’t involve Pete Santilli’s show.”
Now that Santilli has taken to the airwaves to attack him and his fellow convoy organizers, Odom said he is trying to avoid responding and moving on to create new methods of protesting the border situation. He has issued a statement at the Convoy website addressing the “spin” created by Santilli, who goes unmentioned by name: “This individual runs a radio talk show and is desperate for attention and listeners, and has constantly sought to poison the well along the way.”
“Pete Santilli in my opinion is a borderline lunatic,” Odom told Hatewatch. “The reason that he’s on this personal campaign of fantastic lies is because we actually separated from him halfway through the convoy just to get away from him. He’s just taken it very personally, he’s obviously slandering and trying to defame me personally. There’s not an ounce of truth to what he’s saying.”
Odom added that Santilli had said the convoy was going to Austin to try to steal some of conspiracist Alex Jones’s listeners by pulling a stunt in front of Jones’ office. “So this is exactly why we parted ways with him, and his RV went out on its own on the convoy,” Odom said.
Odom added about Santilli: “He leaves a path of destruction. Everyone that I’ve contacted that’s had anything to do with him has had the same outcome, where he turns on them for whatever reason to try to get attention and create controversy that he can go and try to sell people.”