Republican congressional nominee Seth Grossman on Monday defended comments he made in a video that surfaced in which he called diversity in the Republican Party “a bunch of crap and un-American.”

The video, provided to The Press of Atlantic City by Democratic Super-PAC American Bridge to the 21st Century, was taken at a primary debate April 21 in Pittsgrove Township, Salem County.

Grossman told The Press of Atlantic City the point he was trying to make was that race or gender should not be a consideration when applying for a job or for college, and that applicants instead should be judged based on “character, merit and work.”

“It is my view that the best way to bring diversity to the Republican Party is for Republicans to openly say that the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American,” Grossman said in the video. “Diversity has become an excuse by Democrats, Communists and socialists to say that we’re all not created equal. … Somebody who is lesser-qualified will get a job anyway or they’ll get into college anyway because of the tribe that they’re with, what group, what box they fit into.”

Grossman also criticized former Lt. Gov. and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno, saying she was less qualified than her primary opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, but was nominated by the party because she was a woman and “checked the box.”

“I think Republicans make a big mistake when we nominate lesser-qualified candidates because they fit into that box,” he said.

Grossman is running against Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew for the seat that will be vacated next year by longtime Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd.

Kaleem Shabazz, president of the Atlantic City chapter of the NAACP and a councilman in the city, said Grossman’s comments were misguided.

“It suggests a gross misrepresentation of our history,” Shabazz said. “The reason we have affirmative action is because of the history of racism in this country.”

Shabazz also cited studies that show continuing discrimination against blacks and Latinos in the housing market and the criminal justice system.

In 2017, the Pew Research Center found people of color are denied mortgages or are required to pay higher interest at a much higher rate than white or Asian people.

“I would hope that somebody running for federal office would read up on those studies,” Shabazz said.

Grossman defended his comments Monday on Facebook as well.

“Republicans need to push back and point out the obvious. ‘Diversity’ is not a virtue. America did not become great because of ‘diversity,’” he posted. “America became great because our Constitution, our culture of liberty, and our Judeo-Christian heritage of ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ created ‘boundless’ opportunities that let Americans of every race, ethnic group, and gender succeed. When America was great, we understood and agreed with the slogan written on every American coin: ‘E pluribus unum’ — out of many comes one — one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis said Monday that if Democrats cared about diversity, they wouldn’t have state Sen. Jeff Van Drew on the ballot against Grossman.

“If they think diversity is so wonderful, why didn’t Jeff Van Drew step aside for one of the two African-American candidates for Congress he just beat in the primary?” Davis said, adding Van Drew opposes gay marriage and supports concealed-carry weapons. “Talking about diversity to appeal to their liberal base now won’t cover up a political career on those positions.”

Michael Muller, chief strategist for Van Drew’s campaign, called Grossman’s comments disappointing.

“As a strong supporter of diversity and inclusion, Senator Van Drew is quite disappointed with Seth Grossman’s comments, and feels our diversity plays a large role in our success as a nation,” Muller said in a statement. “Senator Van Drew wants to be a Congressman that embraces our diversity because that is the foundation of the country’s success for generations as a land of opportunity.”

Muller said Van Drew also took issue with Grossman’s comments on Guadagno, whom he called a “knowledgeable and reasonable public official.”

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