SAN DIEGO -- The man behind a controversial rally outside a Phoenix mosque last week is now trying to clear his name.
“My message got misconstrued,” said Jon Ritzheimer as he spoke to FOX 5 over Skype from an undisclosed location.
The San Diego native, seen in pictures wearing a shirt saying “[expletive] Islam,” said all he wanted to do was stand up for free speech and never thought things would turn out the way they did.
“It was never an anti-Muslim rally. I am not anti-Muslims,” said the retired Marine about the rally he held in response to the Texas shooting where two suspected terrorists tried to ambush another freedom of speech event featuring controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
Both suspects, gunned down by police, were believed to have attended the Phoenix mosque where Ritzheimer called on Americans to protest and bring their guns, asking them to exercise their second amendment right to protect their first.
“Our freedom of speech is being infringed upon,” said the married father of two who grew up in Lakeside.
But it has all backfired.
"I was ill-prepared," he said of an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper in which he was challenged on his knowledge of Islam.
He was later ridiculed and attacked on social media.
And besides being tainted as a bigot, he claims to have become the victim of hackers taking all of his personal information including addresses, credit card numbers and gaining access to his bank accounts.
He and his family are also getting death threats and fears he and his family have become a target for terrorists.
“They called for my head,” said Ritzheimer. “If they come to a gun fight, I’m ready for it."
But even after all the backlash, he said he has no regrets.