In May, Alek Skarlatos announced his plans to run for Congress again in 2022. But in between his political races — a failed challenge to Rep. Peter DeFazio, and before that a failed run for Douglas County commissioner — the former National Guardsman turned actor has been outspoken about his right-wing views of political issues.
Skarlatos has joked multiple times about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and has declined to comment when asked about the winner of the 2020 presidential election. These extreme views and his refusal to speak to nonconservative media outlets is prompting concern from local political leaders on if he would be able to represent all people in an Oregon district.
During the November 2020 general election, the 28-year-old from Roseburg faced off against DeFazio in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, losing by roughly 5 percent of the vote. By the 2022 election, Oregon will have a new congressional district, but it is still unknown how those lines will be drawn, meaning Skarlatos may or may not be running against DeFazio in his pursuit of an elected position.
Skarlatos did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Eugene Weekly asking to clarify his views on the insurrection and the presidential election.
Though Skarlatos’ opinions may have flown under the radar for those who don’t watch conservative media, Oregon political leaders are concerned about Skarlatos’ downplaying of these historic events.
In a statement, DeFazio says that while Skarlatos jokes about the Jan. 6 insurrection, the event is no laughing matter.
“Alek has demonstrated time and again that he’s out of touch with Oregon families — whether it’s joking about an attack on our democracy, opposition to federal funding for vaccines and stimulus checks for Oregonians or providing affordable healthcare for all Americans, he’s bad for Oregon,” DeFazio tells EW.
In late January 2021, Skarlatos did share his thoughts on the Capitol riot in an interview with conservative media organization Newsmax: “Honestly, I just thought that the liberal media was going to use this for the next six months to demonize Trump supporters, and it looks like that is exactly what they’re planning on doing.”
Skarlatos later adds that what “bothered” him about the Jan. 6 incident was that social media was trying to shut down “the other side,” rather than let people have a healthy debate. At the time, Donald Trump was banned from most social media platforms, and Twitter and Facebook announced the companies would crack down on posts sharing misinformation and extremist views.
“January 6 was a very dark day,” says Oregon state Rep. Marty Wilde. “People lost their lives and were injured, including members of law enforcement.” He adds that this is not a partisan issue. “Democrats and independents have all condemned the event.” Most Republicans have not.
During the Newsmax interview, Skarlatos also comments on the presence of the National Guard members stationed in the Capitol following the insurrection. He says most members were conservative, meaning “We are putting them in a position where they theoretically might have chosen between people they may sympathize with or protect the Capitol building.”
When asked about the National Guard Troops sleeping on the floor of the Capitol, Skarlatos says that when he was in the Guard, he had slept in a lot worse places.
“It’s very shocking, and it’s a shame that they have to be there, but at the end of the day, I’m kind of jealous of them,” Skarlatos says, with a laugh.
Wilde was also shocked, he says, when he heard that Skarlatos would question the loyalty of the troops.
“We serve the Constitution, not the political party,” Wilde says, who is a colonel in the National Guard and has 27 years of service. “And well, he doesn’t have to be jealous, we’d be happy to have him re-enlist, but he has to swear to put the Constitution before his own party.”
Wilde says that those in Congress take an oath to put the country above the party, but it doesn’t sound like that is what Skarlatos is interested in doing.
“And we just see the problem that causes — extremism that encourages some of the folks we see. There are already a lot of extreme ideologues who basically will deny reality, rather than face the truth,” he says.
During a May 22 interview with Roseburg newspaper The News-Review, Skarlatos was asked who won the 2020 election. He responded “no comment.”
Wilde says Skarlatos’ refusal to speak with most nonconservative papers is not a good look for someone who wants to run for Congress again.
“I think it shows he’s out of touch with the community,” he says. “I talk to anybody who wants to talk to me about my job because part of my job is to get out information about what we’re doing.”
Wilde gives the recent school board election in Bend as an example. He says there were many candidates who were sponsored by right-wing money and only spoke to right-wing media.
“They were soundly defeated,” Wilde explains. “Because people said, ‘No, we want you to talk to the media that we see as well.’”
Wilde says he hopes voters see these issues and understand what it means to represent a district of people coming from different backgrounds.
“They only believe you were elected to serve, you know, the people who voted for you or your political base, and that’s just a fundamental misunderstanding of what public service is.”