Reuters, Mar. 11, 2003
By Joanne Kenen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House, lawmakers of both parties and local Jewish groups on Tuesday criticized a Democratic representative’s remarks suggesting that American Jews were responsible for the push for war with Iraq.
Rep. James Moran of Virginia told a church forum March 3 that if “it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.” He then suggested Jewish leaders could prevent the war if they chose to. The remarks were later reported by local papers.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called Moran’s remarks “shocking. … They are wrong and they shouldn’t have been said,” Fleischer said.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas said the comments were “very damaging” and that Moran’s subsequent apology was “not much of an apology.”
Moran has drawn controversy repeatedly in the past, for both his outbursts and his financial dealings with people or companies with interests pending in Congress. Among other things, he once got into a shoving match with a Republican colleague on the House floor.
Moran’s comments also come when memories are still fresh about then-Senate Republican leader Trent Lott’s racially insensitive remarks, which cost him his leadership post.
The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Jewish Democratic Council criticized the remarks, according to The Washington Post, and several local rabbis called for Moran’s resignation.
Fellow Democrats stopped short of calling for him to step down but they were very critical.
“Congressman Moran’s comments were not only inappropriate, they were offensive. He has properly apologized. His comments have no place in the Democratic Party,” said California Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader.
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, asked if Moran was likely to face a primary challenge next year, said “I’m sure there will be great debate in his district.”
Other Democrats used terms like “stupid,” “intolerable” and “highly inappropriate.”
Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democratic leader of the House, said “I think he said a stupid thing, I think Mr. Moran thinks he said a stupid thing, and if we all resigned every time we said a stupid thing, we might all be gone.”
Moran’s remarks were first reported by the Reston Connection and then by the Post.
Neither Moran nor a spokesman were available Tuesday. The Post quoted him as saying “I made some insensitive remarks that I deeply regret,” he said.