Backlash Grows Against Rep. Moran

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Six Democratic House members called on Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., not to seek re-election in 2004 in the wake of controversial comments about Jews and the possibility of war with Iraq.

Moran's comments are "not merely wrong, offensive and ignorant," the six, all Jewish lawmakers, wrote in a letter Wednesday, "They are grossly irresponsible, and were given at a sensitive time when inflammatory comments -- regardless of outrageous factual flaws -- can unleash unintended and dangerous consequences."

Moran's office had no immediate comment.

The Virginia lawmaker sparked a controversy several days ago when he said, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this. ... 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."

Moran apologized for his comments on Tuesday. He said he framed his comments as he did because he was responding to a questioner who said she was Jewish. "I regret doing that," he said.

In a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who also criticized Moran, the six House Democrats said that the comments "violate the basic standards we hold ourselves to as Democrats."

"We hope that as Jim reflects on his actions, he will decide not to seek re-election to the House of Representatives. Should he seek re-election in 2004, however, we cannot and will not support his candidacy."

The letter was signed by Reps. Henry Waxman and Tom Lantos of California, Martin Frost of Texas, Sander M. Levin of Michigan, Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Nita M. Lowey of New York.

Meantime, if he decides to run for an eighth term in 2004, Moran could find himself in a primary fight. Possible Democratic challengers like Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley has refused to rule out a run, though he told local radio that he's not inclined to challenge Moran.

Former congresswoman and now Virginia State Senator Leslie Byrne said she has been approached about taking on Moran, and that she's thinking seriously about it. Byrne doesn't live in Moran's district, but is considering moving.

Moran said that he may be "rough around the edges" but he has no intention of quitting his seat.