It appears the 59-year old man believed to have shot up a Louisiana movie theater on Thursday night once created a profile on a national tea party community website, but the leader of that organization tells The Daily Caller he doesn’t know John Russell Houser.
I mean we’ve got 55,000 people who are on the website, who have signed up as members,” Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, said in a phone interview with TheDC on Friday morning.
“As far as I know, he’s never contributed to any discussions or anything on the site,” Phillips said of Houser. “Wouldn’t know the guy if I met him.”
Police identified Houser of Phenix City, Ala. on Friday morning as the man who killed two people and injured nine before killing himself during a movie screening in Lafayette.
In June 2013, someone made a profile on the Tea Party Nation website under the name John Russell Houser. The location was listed as Phenix City.
Phillips said he doesn’t believe Houser was active with the organization.
“I had somebody check. It looks like whoever this guy is — whether it’s the same guy or not and I have no way of knowing — apparently he signed up in 2013,” Phillips said. “And basically, when you sign up with us, you put your name on the profile. Whoever he is, this guy has never done anything, never contributed anything, never said anything. And there’s not even a photo on the profile.”
Phillips said he is prepared for the tea party to take heat.
“I’m sure there will a little bit of character assassination coming from the left,” Phillips said. “Because why should you debate issues like Iran, or the Planned Parenthood scandal, when you can sit there and engage in character assassination because some lunatic signed up for our political website?”
Phillips, reiterating he is unsure the person who made the profile is the same person involved in the movie shooting, referenced how ABC News initially incorrectly tied the Colorado movie theater shooter to the tea party.
ABC had the wrong guy: there was a member of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots named Jim Holmes, but it wasn’t the James Holmes who went on a shooting rampage during the 2012 showing of the “Dark Knight Rises.”
“Remember when James Holmes shot up that movie theater in Aurora Colorado? And Remember what Brian Ross did?” Phillip said. “Oh there’s a James Holmes that’s a member of the tea party! It wasn’t him.”
“The thing about the tea party, being the decentralized group that it is, anybody can sign up,” Phillips said. “I mean anybody can come in and say, ‘I’m part of the tea party.'”