Jersey councilman jeered for saying he supports diversity by giving promotions to those who don't deserve them
Mountainside, New Jersey Councilman Robert Messler (Photo: Facebook)

Mountainside, New Jersey Councilman Robert Messler got shouted down during a debate with his two opponents.

Messler is facing off against Democrats Anjali Mehtrotra and Ileana Montes for two seats on the council, reported Thursday. But an awkward moment during the debate may have killed his chances.

"I have, in my career -- I have promoted many people that are...that maybe didn't deserve it and help include them," Messler said, touting his career as an executive. Messler then paused as someone in the audience began laughing at him.

After a moment of awareness, he quickly began to scramble to correct himself and downplay the racism of the statement

"I meant to say that they might not have had a chance. I'm in a factory environment and I have people that have education -- maybe have no education, maybe have language barriers, maybe are minorities," Messler said.

"I've promoted them to management positions, gave them a chance, gave them a chance to have education, helped them out and their families, so what I said came across wrong," he concluded, digging himself a deeper hole.

Mehtrotra and Montes, by contrast, shared their own personal stories. Mehtrotra, specifically, threw her hands up, exclaiming, "look at me!"

"I am a woman of color who grew up in India. I was not supposed to have a college education or a career. All my life, I had to fight against status quo to be here today. I am the picture of diversity, if you will give me that," she said.