WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups demanded an apology from NPR host Diane Rehm for saying that Sen. Bernie Sanders has dual Israeli-American citizenship.
“Such a statement is not only factually incorrect, but has no place in such an interview,” the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a letter Wednesday to National Public Radio. “It is deeply troubling to think that a well-respected media outlet like NPR would apparently rely on unsubstantiated information from the Internet in its preparation for a guest.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council also called for an apology.
Rehm hosts an interview show for NPR’s Washington, D.C., affiliate, WAMU. On Thursday, interviewing Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, she said, “Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel.”
Sanders was annoyed by the question.
“Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel,” he said, according to a transcript first posted by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. “I’m an American. I don’t know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions.”
Rehm said she was referring to a “list.” In a statement later, she said she had seen the list on Facebook.
A number of lists have circulated in recent years accusing every Jewish lawmaker in Congress of having dual Israeli citizenship.
“I want to apologize as well to all our listeners for having made an erroneous statement,” Rehm said, noting that she apologized to Sanders during the broadcast. “I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.”
Foxman and the NJDC said the apology was inadequate.
“Her mistake was not to research it before she even stated it as fact,” Foxman said. “She simply should not have asked the question.”
The NJDC said Rehm had perpetuated an anti-Semitic rumor instead of squelching it.
“This ‘rumor’ is one that she has helped perpetuate and advance,” NJDC Chairman Greg Rosenbaum said in a statement. “Ms. Rehm owes Sen. Sanders and the American Jewish community an immediate and genuine apology.”