Cox accepted the gift, inspecting the small, black comb, then asked the man’s name and shook his hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Cox said, before greeting other supporters gathered in the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company in Frederick County on July 19 to watch the Trump-aligned Republican candidate trounce a moderate primary opponent.
The footage, posted two months ago, was online Friday morning nestled among other Cox campaign materials, attack ads against Democratic nominee Wes Moore and promotions of Cox’s biography. The clip was removed after The Washington Post contacted the Cox campaign, which responded with a statement denying an association with the young man.
“In the noise of the victory celebration, it was hard to hear what was being said,” Cox said in the statement. “I was a surprised by him handing me something, and frankly, I did not even keep the comb.”
Cox continued: “I had never seen him before, and I have not seen him since. I have no affiliation with anyone involved in violence on January 6th, period.”
The Republican nominee has sought to distance himself from the insurrection and antisemitic extremists in the conservative wing of his party as he tries to gain ground in the lopsided governor’s race, which an Oct. 1 Post-UMD poll had Cox’s opponent Moore leading by 32 percentage points.
After winning the July primary, Cox deleted his account on Gab, a social media platform known as a haven for white nationalists and hate speech, removing more than 1,000 posts from the site as he attempted to shift the focus of his campaign.
Gab, which advertises itself as “the free speech social network” and relishes in allowing users to post whatever they want, made headlines about four years ago when the man accused of opening fire on the Tree of Life synagogue was linked to antisemitic remarks on the platform.
Cox has declined to discuss the deletion or the content of his posts.
He has tried to steer discourse away from the “Make America Great Again” movement, his far-right stances on the 2020 presidential election and his attendance at the Jan. 6 rally at the Capitol, focusing his campaign on “restoring freedom,” parental rights, public safety and crime.
He deleted prominent references to former president Trump’s endorsement from his website, though on Monday Trump hosted a fundraiser for Cox at his Mar-a-Largo estate in Florida. Tickets cost $1,776, and it cost $25,000 for a photo with Cox and Trump.
Cox has said he believes the 2020 election “was stolen,” and he volunteered to help decertify results in Pennsylvania. He has also issued denials and apologies about his conduct surrounding Jan. 6. Although he said he attended the “Stop the Steal” rally with seven of his 10 children, he has said he left before the march to the Capitol.
He tweeted “Mike Pence is a traitor” as rioters stormed the Capitol, but later apologized for “my poor choice of words.” Before the rally, he tweeted that he was co-hosting two buses from Frederick County, near the Pennsylvania line, to Washington. He later said he was just promoting someone else’s organizational efforts.
One local man affiliated with the Proud Boys extremist group was sentenced to more than four years in prison for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.
According to prosecutors, Joshua Pruitt was one of few rioters who came face-to-face with members of Congress. A member of the security detail for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he is still haunted by the near interaction between Schumer and Pruitt. A bartender in D.C. who joined the Proud Boys in November 2020, Pruitt was seen inside the Capitol throwing a sign and a chair and was remembered by officers as “an instigator,” prosecutors said.
Heidi Beirich, a co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and former director of intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the Proud Boys have been “working aggressively at the local level” since the attack on the Capitol. Canada has declared the Proud Boys a terrorist group.
“It’s disturbing to see Proud Boys showing up at legitimate political events. They shouldn’t be,” she said, adding that no “legitimate politician” should have anything to do with them. She said the young man in the video is “wearing their uniform basically and introduces himself as from the Maryland Proud Boys.”
“It’s a white supremacist group, a misogynist group,” she said. “The number of Proud Boys involved in violence is a mile long. The group is so dangerous that Canada and New Zealand have banned it as a terrorist organization.”
Beirich, who has done research on the extremist group, said she doesn’t know of any significance of a comb, the gift given to Cox.
Moore campaign spokesman Carter Elliott IV said the video of Cox accepting a gift from an extremist group on the night he won the nominations shows he “is unfit for public office.”
“This shows what we’ve known all along, Cox is a dangerous extremist that doesn’t belong anywhere near the governor’s office,” Elliott said.
Early voting in Maryland’s general election begins on Thursday.
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