Democrat LuAnn Bennett is still close friends with her ex-husband Jim Moran, a former congressman known for violent outbursts and bullying, but she says that the violent rhetoric coming from Republican Donald Trump is why she is running for Congress.
“After reading this story, I was disgusted,” Bennett wrote on her campaign Facebook page linking to a Washington Post column on Trump's rhetoric. “But it reinforced for me one of the reasons I got into this race. We have GOT to change our politics. We must do better.”
“Donald Trump's hateful and divisive rhetoric is having a real effect on our country, our communities, and our children,” Bennett wrote. “Someone who uses such hateful language and bullying tactics to divide us cannot solve the problems facing our country.”
The post links to a fundraising page on her campaign website, where Bennett is asking supporters to “stand with me to unequivocally denounce Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric.”
Bennett is holding a campaign kickoff event Wednesday night in Sterling, Virginia, to launch her attempt to unseat Rep. Barbara Comstock (R., Va.).
Bennett's ex-husband, on the other hand, shares many of Trump's characteristics.
“Jim Moran is the poor man's Donald Trump,” a longtime political operative in Virginia said, referencing the violent outbursts that plagued his political career.
Moran, who was involved in recruiting Bennett, his second wife, to run for office and is now serving as an adviser for her campaign, retired from Congress in 2012 and was widely considered an “embarrassment” by commentators on both sides of the aisle.
The Washington Post editorial board wrote in 2010 that Moran “has embarrassed himself and his constituents” in Northern Virginia.
One reason for the embarrassment is Moran's tendency towards violence. In 1995, he “sucker-punched” a Republican colleague on the floor of the House of Representatives during a debate over sending troops to Bosnia. He was later forced to apologize for the incident in an official congressional speech.
The former boxer also once threatened to “bust the nose” of a different Republican congressman.
The violence extended outside of congressional chambers as well. In 2000, Moran's first wife called police to their home claiming that he had assaulted her. He said that he pushed her in self-defense because she was coming toward him.
No charges were filed and they got a divorce shortly after, but his house was the site of more violence the next year when the then-single Moran was visited by two female friends at the same time. The Washington Post reported that Moran grabbed one of the women “by the arm, trying to get her out of the house” and that the scene looked like “something out of a Jerry Springer episode.”
Moran had to be physically restrained by his staff to keep him from fighting with a group of protesters in 2010. “We're not protecting him from you, we're protecting you from him,” his staff told the crowd.
Bennett's concern about the effect Trump's rhetoric is having on children could be a result of knowing the effect that Moran had on his own children.
Moran's son Patrick was arrested in 2012 after he “slammed his girlfriend's head into the bar's metal trash can cage.”
Here's the official incident report:
The woman was treated at a Washington, D.C., hospital for a broken nose and a skull fracture under her eye. The younger Moran was initially charged with felony domestic violence assault but wound up serving only probation after being sentenced to simple assault.
Moran's confrontational attitude also appears to have rubbed off on Bennett. At President Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural ball, Bennett publicly scolded Capitol Police for not immediately letting her into the Capitol. Moran came out and berated the officer until he relented, according to the Washington Post.
The controversy surrounding Moran extended beyond just violence. He was labeled an anti-Semite in 2003 after he said that the Jews were behind the war in Iraq.
“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” Moran said. “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.”
Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) condemned the comment as “offensive” and said that Moran's “comments have no place in the Democratic Party.”
Moran was also criticized for his failure to disclose a $25,000 loan from drug lobbyist Terry Lierman in 2000 during his first divorce. Lierman was at the time pushing legislation co-sponsored by Moran.
Lierman has already contributed $1,000 to Bennett's campaign.
The Bennett campaign did not respond to an email with questions about her husband's rhetoric.