WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., was removed from his post as a regional whip for the Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday in response to criticism over comments he made that implied the U.S. Jewish lobby was responsible for a possible war with Iraq.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she asked Moran to leave the position Friday.
"I have taken this action because Congressman Moran's irresponsible remarks were a serious mistake," Pelosi said. "As I said earlier this week, his comments were not only inappropriate, they were offensive and have no place in the Democratic Party."
At an anti-war forum for constituents last week, Moran 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."
He later defended the comments as coming in response to a question from a Jewish constituent about the best way to oppose the possibility of military action to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and that they were intended as an example of the power of all religious groups not just Jewish organizations.
Moran on Friday said in a statement that he would resign the leadership "as a way to demonstrate acceptance of my responsibility for insensitive remarks I recently made."
"I will continue to reach out to the Jewish community and others who were offended by my remarks," he said. "Most importantly, I will strive to learn from my mistakes and listen to the concerns of my constituents."
Mid-Atlantic Democrats had elected Moran as a regional whip three years ago, which serves as a liaison between the leadership and rank and file members and as key vote counters during legislative debates.