Jewish groups broadcast their unhappiness Thursday with a public radio host who accused Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of holding dual citizenship a day earlier, calling the question “offensive.”
Diane Rehm, who interviewed Sanders on her show this week, accused the Jewish senator of holding Israeli citizenship, saying that he had appeared “on a list” of dual citizens.
“Senator,” the senior reporter said Wednesday, “you have dual citizenship with Israel.”
Sanders, who does not, quickly corrected Rehm. “No, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I’m an American,” he said. “I don’t know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I’m an American citizen, period.”
Sanders also called the question offensive during the interview, though on Thursday he said he liked Rehm.
“I don’t know where she got it. I suspect that her staff gave her a list of questions, and she messed up,” he said.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor Thursday, Sanders said that he was “not particularly religious” but that as a child being Jewish taught him “in a very deep way what politics is about.”
“A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932,” he told the Monitor. “He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.”
In a Facebook post, Rehm apologized for the mistake, saying that she “had read in a comment on Facebook” that Sanders held dual citizenship.
That comment in question appears to have been published on the Facebook page of pro-Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni and links to a website run by a man named Mike Ruark.
Ruark’s website, which he operated from 2011 to 2012, features long, rambling blog posts on American and international policy, including statements like, “Everyone knows how much the Jews love money.”
Most of the other politicians listed on Ruark’s website are also not Israeli. Some, like John Bolton, are not even Jewish.
Even a cursory glance of the source of this rumor should have been enough to prevent Rehm’s question, a variety of Jewish groups have said.
“This goes well beyond poor journalistic judgment,” the B’nai B’rith organization said in a statement. “We’ve seen this dual loyalty issue come up again and again.”
The Anti-Defamation League demanded an apology from NPR for the statement.
“It is appalling that in today’s age, a longtime Jewish elected official would face implications that he splits his loyalty between the United States and Israel for no other reason that his religion,” the National Jewish Democratic Council chairman Greg Rosenbaum said Wednesday.
Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.