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SAN DIEGO — Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat running for California’s 50th Congressional District seat, spoke to FOX 5 Tuesday to address his controversial interview with the founder of an East County group.

Video taken Oct. 7 reportedly shows Campa-Najjar and the founder of Defend East County sitting side-by-side without masks, smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. The group, which was started after a Black Lives Matter protest in La Mesa turned destructive, says on Facebook its purpose is “to come together and stand united to keep our city from being destroyed by rioting, looting and fires.” According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, videos of violence against Black Lives Matter protesters by “patriots” in other cities have received hundreds of likes on the page.

“The thing I’m apologizing for is not knowing that there were individuals in this group who resort to violence and racism and I didn’t call it out,” Campa-Najjar said. “Had I known that, I probably would not have gone on until their leadership denounced hate, until the whole organization did.”

Campa-Najjar, who is the first Latino-Arab American to run for Congress in the district, said he has been on the receiving end of hate speech.

“I’ve been running for Congress to make sure that everybody has equality, that everybody is treated equally and I fully, 100% do not condone violence, racism or white supremacy, and my apology was not knowing that there were elements of that among individuals of this group,” Campa-Najjar said.

Watch FOX 5’s interview with Ammar Campa-Najjar in the video player above.