Lawmaker under fire for saying Jews support Iraq war
Moran apologizes; White House blasts comments
From Ted Barrett
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, is in hot water with Jewish groups for declaring the "strong support" of the Jewish community was driving the push toward a war with Iraq.
The remarks, interpreted by some as anti-Semitic, were condemned Tuesday as "shocking" by the White House and labeled "offensive" by the leader of his own party in the House. Moran has apologized for the comments.
At a March 3 antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, outside Washington, Moran talked about why he felt the antiwar movement was not stronger in the United States.
"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," said Moran, whose remarks were first reported by the Reston Connection newspaper. "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."
The leader of the Jewish Community Council of Washington criticized Moran for the remarks.
"The Jewish community is deeply offended," said Ronald Halber, executive director of the JCC, explaining that no one group has that much influence over U.S. foreign policy.
"Besides being patently untrue and foolish, your poisonous remarks are reminiscent of age-old vicious canards that have been hurled against Jews for generations," the JCC said in a letter to Moran.
Moran, a seven-term lawmaker, issued an apology Monday for the comments.
"I should not have singled out the Jewish community and regret giving any impression that its members are somehow responsible for the course of action being pursued by the administration, or are somehow behind an impending war," Moran said.
"What I was trying to say is that if more organizations in this country, including religious groups, were more outspoken against war, then I do not think we would be pursuing war as an option."
Jewish groups have criticized Moran in the past for what they describe as his pro-Palestinian beliefs.
Halber called Moran's apology "woefully inadequate" and said he should consider resigning.
Tuesday, the White House weighed in on the controversy.
"Rep. Moran suggested that the reason that the president was thinking about using force in Iraq was because of the influence of the Jewish community. Those remarks are shocking. They are wrong and they should not have been said," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, released a statement Tuesday critical of Moran's comments.
"Congressman Moran's comments were not only inappropriate, they were offensive," Pelosi said. "He has properly apologized. His comments have no place in the Democratic Party."
-- White House Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.