U.S. Rep. James Moran accuses Jews of pushing for a war with Iraq

Heavily scrutinized for his comments about Jews pushing for a war with Iraq, U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-VA), stepped down Friday as House Democratic regional whip.

“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” Moran said during a March 3 anti-war forum in Reston, Va. “The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.”

President of VCU’s chapter of the Young Democrats, Peter A. Feddo, said he believes the representative’s comments do not reflect the beliefs and philosophies of the Democratic Party.

“We don’t need a candidate that speaks like that,” he said. “We need a better spokesperson for Virginia democrats.”

Jack D. Spiro, director of VCU’s Center for Judaic Studies, said Moran’s comment displayed poor judgement.

“It’s a stupid comment and he didn’t use his judgement,” he said. “It was an anti-Semitic comment. It’s a generalization. A generalization of any group is a bigoted remark.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Virginia’s 8th District representative’s remarks were irresponsible and a serious mistake.

“(Moran’s) comments were not only inappropriate, they were offensive and have no place in the Democratic Party,” Pelosi told CNN.

Elected to Congress in 1990, Moran has since apologized and attempted to explain his remarks.

“What I was trying to say is that if more organizations in this country, including religious groups, were more outspoken against a war, then I do not think we would be pursing war as an option,” he said in a statement posted on his congressional Web site.

“I will continue to reach out to the Jewish community and others who were offended by my remarks,” Moran said in a statement Friday.

Feddo agrees that Moran probably misspoke.

“I don’t think he phrased what he wanted to say accurately,” he said.

Regardless of Moran’s attempts to clarify his comments, several Virginia democrats have already expressed an interest in challenging Moran for re-election. Moran said he will not give up his seat.

Feddo doesn’t think Moran should step down, but he welcomes the competition.

“He will face quite a fight,” he said. “Republicans don’t stand a chance in his district. But we need a better candidate.”

Spiro doesn’t think the comments will affect the Democratic Party because it was a reflection of an individual rather than a group.

“It’s a minor issue by a minor politician,” he said. “Nothing major.”

The comments came only months after Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi made remarks about segregation during former Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party in December. The senator stepped down as Senate majority leader, but he remains in the Senate. Feddo doesn’t think the two politicians’ comments are comparable.

“It’s not on the same level,” he said.

Spiro agrees that Moran’s comment was not on the same plain as Lott’s.

“Lott’s comment was more implication and Moran’s was more clear and unequivocal,” he said. “Trent Lott never mentioned blacks or a particular group. Lott was the most powerful man in the Senate while Moran is a representative. There’s a big difference but both used very bad judgment.”

This incident is not the first time Moran has felt the heat from the American public. The politician once had an 8-year-old African-American boy arrested for touching his car.

Before heading to Washington, D.C., Moran served as mayor in Alexandria, Va. in 1985 after being forced to resign from city council.

Moran also has been accused of receiving a loan from a drug industry lobbyist and then introducing a bill that would benefit the man’s employer.

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