ANNAPOLIS, Md. (DC News Now) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox on Monday said he didn’t know he was shaking hands and accepting a gift from a member of Proud Boys, a group many people have called violent, and blamed Democrats for deflecting from the issues in the race.

Cox sat down with DC News Now in his Annapolis office to discuss the controversy that happened the night he won the GOP primary in July. He claimed the unknown man was removed shortly thereafter by his security.

The handshake footage of Cox meeting a young man who identified himself as a member of the “Maryland Proud Boys” was first reported by the Washington Post last week primary Election night as Cox was greeting his supporters.

The issue has become yet another flashpoint in the campaign to be Maryland’s next governor as Democrat Wes Moore, who has sought to tie the Maryland delegate to the extreme views of his party and a sympathizer to groups like the Proud Boys who stormed the nation’s capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Cox has criticized Moore, a businessman, author and military veteran, for only holding one debate and exaggerating his links to Baltimore

In the video that was posted to Cox’s Vimeo account and since removed, the man in a black polo steps up to greet Cox, who has said the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Cox said he was being polite in shaking the man’s hand.

“I didn’t know who he was. I’m not familiar with insignias,” Cox said. “I had no knowledge of what his shirt said.”

Cox described the comb gift that was handed to him as “odd.”

“I discarded it. Also, I learned our security escorted him out,” Cox said. “That the media would be so focused on this stupid comb when right now, today’s news headline, Maryland is at the bottom of the United States with education, failing our fourth and eighth graders.”

This is Moore and the Democrats, Cox says, trying to distract from not paying his water bill in the arrears or receiving homestead property tax credits in the past that he didn’t earn.

“Look, hundreds of people come to events. And we have a security measure in place and certainly, we’re looking to make sure those security measures are improved,” Cox said. “These are governance issues that really matter. A comb from somebody randomly walking up to me? This is ridiculous.”

But did he hear the man say he was a member of the Maryland Proud boys?

“I stand by what I said, it was very noisy in there. I don’t remember everything that was being said but I remember confronted a handed a very weird thing, a comb,” he said.

Cox said he vehemently rejects the Proud Boys doctrine and that “we removed it from the Vimeo site because that’s not anything that we would endorse. I don’t remember hearing him, what he said. I made that very clear in my statement.”

He blamed not catching the video posting earlier on having a small office staff.

“I denounce all such violence and I don’t care who you are, if you’re involved in some kind of violent organization, and you have no place coming to my events.”

Moore said Cox has problems with the truth and his associations are troubling.

“He knows the Proud Boys insignia because he’s tweeted about them before. He knows who they are,” Moore said. “And I just don’t know anyone else who would be proud or excited to see a member of the Proud Boys even though they were on full display at his victory party.

Moore said he’s not buying that Cox’s security escorted the man out of his primary campaign headquarters.

“He knows what we all know, is that the Proud Boys is a white supremacist domestic terrorist group,” Moore said. “Once again, our opponent has showed us his values.”