Republican Arizona State Rep. Walt Blackman on Wednesday backed off his past statements openly praising the far-right Proud Boys gang.
CNN reports that Blackman, who is running for United States Congress in Arizona's 1st Congressional District, praised the Proud Boys while speaking at a rally in September.
"Let me tell you something about the Proud Boys," he told the crowd. "The Proud Boys came to one of my events and that was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not because of what the media portrayed them to be, but the patriots they showed young people: the example on how to be an American."
Blackman tells CNN that he doesn't actually support the Proud Boys and that he knew very little about them when he praised them last month.
"I'm not a career politician," he said. "As of three years ago, I was the first Black Republican elected to the Arizona state legislature. I'm new to this, and at the time of the rally, wasn't familiar with the totality and breadth of the Proud Boys conduct, which I unequivocally condemn."