Moran reeling after remarks about Jews

Va. Democrat scrambles to apologize amid furor

March 12, 2003|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - A Virginia congressman was engulfed in criticism yesterday for recent comments suggesting that Jewish leaders were behind the drive toward war with Iraq and had the power to stop it if they wished.

Rep. James P. Moran sparked the furor with his remarks at an antiwar forum March 3 in his Northern Virginia district.

"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. "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."

Jewish organizations denounced his remarks as anti-Semitic.

"The charge that war with Iraq is the result of Jewish pressure is outrageous, offensive and baseless," leaders of the Anti-Defamation League's Washington office wrote in a letter to Moran.

Those leaders, Chris Wolf and David Friedman, added: "The canard that Jews disproportionately control the government perpetuates the spurious anti-Semitic stereotype of the underhanded Jew who is conspiring to take over the world."

The White House and top congressional leaders from both major parties joined in condemning the remarks, even as Moran scrambled to make amends.

Moran apologized yesterday for what he called "insensitive remarks that I deeply regret."

In a brief telephone interview, Moran said he had erred in singling out the Jewish community and that he had meant to urge a broad spectrum of social and religious groups to oppose a possible U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He said he focused on Jewish leaders in his remarks because a questioner at the forum had identified herself as Jewish.

Moran said he should have pointed out that U.S. Catholics and Southern Baptists, for example, also are not voicing strong, organized opposition to war.

"I've got to just take my licks here," Moran said. "I deserve it. Even though it is not what I intended to say, it is what I did say."

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