Updated: Jan 28, 2022
(This is part one of a three part series on Tasha Adams and her marriage to Stewart Rhodes Updated: Part 2 is now available here)
Her one word response to my interview request?
With that willingness by Tasha Adams to speak on record with me, a journey would commence lasting almost four hours, one which would traverse the streets of a pre corporate Las Vegas, wind its way to Capitol Hill, then Yale, and eventually to a small cabin in Montana, where dueling tales of resurrection and rebellion would converge.
“Yes, that’s right.” Tasha responded to my request for clarification to a question with the slightest of giggles.
And what was she clarifying?
The desire by her husband, accused January 6 seditionist and Oath Keeper’s founder Stewart Rhodes, to have her go to Japan while a couple of months pregnant in order to make as much money as she could stripping before she began showing too much.
Adams, who had never left the western United States at that point in her life, adamantly refused. That episode being one of the few times she said no, over the course of almost 30 years, to a man she described at different points in our conversation as a monster, sociopath, liar, and fraud.
Equal parts the daughter of a Mormon family and old Vegas, Adams’ innocence was on display when Rhodes came into the Arthur Murray ballroom dance studio where she worked in 1991 and, eventually, managed to convince the then 18 year old ingenue to go on a date with him.
While conceding her new beau was “rough around the edges,” the young Tasha was taken in by what she viewed at the time as Rhodes’ "worldly and assertive intelligence.” But the romantic spark she felt for the Binion’s valet attendant, and part time gun store employee, was fleeting as warning signs started piling up around her new suitor.
Despite being raised with a certain subservient inclination toward men, Adams nervously recounted multiple episodes of “belittling and manipulative actions," that peeked out from behind Rhodes’ otherwise calm facade in those early days of their courtship. His behavior seemed to be more clearly on display to her family, as her sister eventually came from California and sat her down in a Red Lobster for a heart to heart discussion, mapping out the likely bleak future Tasha faced if she got serious with Stewart.
Readying to end the burgeoning romance, a life altering moment in the shadows of industrial Las Vegas changed the course of her life, and possibly that of US history.
Stewart Rhodes knew that. In fact Stewart Rhodes specifically kept the .22 Derringer away from his mom due to its inherent design flaw, yet when a friend called asking if he had a weapon that Rhodes could loan him, the firearm aficionado selected one he knew was dangerous. While transporting it from the west side of the valley to his buddy’s home on the eastside, he and a cousin stopped for a cold drink as the two men and their unairconditioned car were no match for the sweltering heat.
Opening the passenger door, the gun fell off the seat, discharging as it hit the ground.
He lost his vision immediately, but as the bullet exited his eye socket, it lodged in his head. Having already been injured in a parachuting accident during his time in the military Rhodes, not yet 30, suffered a second debilitating injury. After being released from the hospital, he went home to live with his mom and it was in those first days, as Rhodes was adjusting to his new life, that Adams’ made the conscious choice to stick by him, to “fix him,” as she put it.
In asking Tasha what she took away most from the shooting, especially now that Rhodes’ eye patch is such a part of his public persona, she reflected on it for the briefest of moments and then speculated as to the lasting damage it caused.
“I was leaving. I was going. Done. Then, youth right? I said I’ll fix him. What I didn’t think of then, but I do now, anytime the shooting comes up, is what damage did it do beyond his eyesight? The way the bullet moved around, and then settled in, did it affect his impulse control? Did it cause some frontal lobe damage?”
My follow up question was direct. “Did the shooting make Stewart who he is? Did it make him public enemy number 1?”
Adams’ lightened up, “No, no it didn’t. He was always a narcissistic asshole.” She then added, almost as an aside until she perked up as it came out, “He had accidents, the parachute incident, the shooting, some others but evil never dies.”
With both of us laughing at the line she just uttered, Adams suggested it be used as the title of this piece and as the rest of their life story unfolded, it became an apparently apropos description of the man to whom she is still married.
(Coming up in part two: Adams recounts being forced to strip by Rhodes in order to support him, and their married life which included accompanying Rhodes to DC as he went to work in the office of then Congressman Ron Paul, and eventually a move to Connecticut, where she raised the kids and kept house as he attended Yale. We also touch on the beginning of his radical beliefs and the founding of the Oath Keepers.)