Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, who has been an outspoken opponent of COVID-19 mandates and recently said he would not enforce a vaccine requirement for deputies because he considers it tyrannical, confirmed this week he paid for a 2014 yearlong membership in the anti-government Oath Keepers militia group.

Bianco’s name first emerged in connection with the Oath Keepers through a data hack of the organization’s website, first reported by USA Tuesday. Hackers then made public the names and addresses of purported members of the organization, including what USA Tuesday reported as more than 200 active or retired law enforcement officials.

Bianco confirmed to the paper that he paid for a membership to the group in 2014.

Contacted Tuesday by the Southern California News Group, Bianco said, “I found an email from 2014 where I joined for a year. I don’t even remember it. It was an email saying, `Thank you for joining.’ I paid for a year’s membership.”

“I’m not ashamed of what I did in 2014,” Bianco told SCNG. He denied having any involvement with the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, saying, “I have been vocally against what happened there. What they did — the few that went into the building — was completely wrong and against the law and they should be held accountable for it.”

But he dismissed the description of the Oath Keepers as an “anti-government militia,” and pointed to what he called far-left militant groups like antifa and Black Lives Matter, which he said have committed acts of violence and vandalism without any backlash from the media or FBI.

“Why was this not done with antifa and Black Lives Matter?” Bianco said. “I lost faith in the FBI a long time ago. The line workers are first rate. Their administration has no business carrying a badge. They strayed from nonbiased law enforcement a long time ago.”

Bianco told the news group that Oath Keepers is a group that supports the oath he took as a peace officer and sheriff — to defend the constitutions of the United States and California and to protect against all enemies foreign and domestic.

“In today’s politically toxic environment, if you support the Constitution of the United States of America you are evil — you’re branded as some evil, right-wing conspirator,” he told SCNG.

Bianco has been Riverside County sheriff since 2018. He has made headlines for his adamant stances against COVID-19 mandates throughout the pandemic. The sheriff refused to assign any deputies to enforce the state’s mask mandates last year, and he rejected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, calling the lockdowns a violation of “constitutional rights.”

Last month, he issued a lengthy statement saying he would not enforce a vaccine mandate for sheriff’s deputies.

“The government has no ability and no authority to mandate your health choices,” he said. “As your sheriff, I have an obligation to guard your liberty and freedom.”

Bianco, who along with his entire family recovered from coronavirus infections last winter, emphasized that “I am certainly not anti-vaccine; I am anti-vaccine for me.”

“That decision should be made in consultation with your doctor after discussing the potential benefit and the potential negative side effects,” the sheriff said. “It is time our government and our politicians come to the realization that the only reason they exist is because `we the people’ formed our government to secure the blessings of individual liberty and freedom.”

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