Moran Out as Regional Whip, but Finds a Friend in Lanny Davis

Posted March 14, 2003 at 2:43pm

Just when it seemed beleaguered Rep. Jim Moran was on the ropes, an old friend offered to step in and help the Virginia Democrat.

Moran, who has been dealing with the fallout from comments he made regarding Jewish influence on U.S. foreign policy, was asked Friday by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to relinquish his position as Whip for the mid-Atlantic region.

But no sooner had the 57-year-old Moran’s party rebuked him than former presidential counselor and heavyweight lobbyist Lanny Davis extended the drowning man a hand.

“I’m advising him as a friend,” the former adviser to Bill Clinton said, stressing that Moran is not a client.

“I’ve known him for 20 years … and there’s not a bigoted or intolerant molecule in his blood,” continued Davis, who is Jewish. “But he has a tendency to speak too quickly and without the nuance and care a public official [should take].”

Speaking at an anti-war rally March 3, Moran suggested that the imminent war with Iraq is the result of prodding from the Jewish community. He later apologized, saying the remarks were taken out of context and part of a broader point.

“I have taken this action because Congressman Moran’s irresponsible remarks were a serious mistake,” Pelosi said in a statement. “As I said earlier this week, his comments were not only inappropriate, they were offensive and have no place in the Democratic Party.”

Pelosi has been under pressure to publicly criticize Moran, whom she has quietly supported so far, a senior Democratic aide said.

Perhaps that is why she, and not Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), made the announcement Friday, the aide suggested.

The often-combative Moran accepted the demotion gracefully.

“I stepped down from my leadership position as a way to demonstrate acceptance of my responsibility for insensitive remarks I recently made,” he said in a statement.

“I will continue to reach out to the Jewish community and others who were offended by my remarks. … Most importantly, I will strive to learn from my mistakes and listen to the concerns of my constituents,” he concluded.

Davis said Moran is making amends by stepping down.

As for Davis’ role, Moran would only say through a spokesman, “Mr. Davis is just a friend.”

There are 12 regional whips in the Democratic Party. The Members representing each region elect them.