Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), vying for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz between college and moving to Vermont, where he would eventually become Burlington mayor and move to Congress.
NPR’s Diane Rehm, the daughter of Arab immigrants, wanted to make sure that the son of a Polish Jewish immigrant isn’t a secret Israeli.
“Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel,” Rehm said in a wide-ranging interview with the 2016 hopeful yesterday.
“Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. 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,” Sanders replied. “No, I’m an American citizen, period.”
“I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list,” Rehm continued.
Sanders noted that’s “some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet, but that is absolutely not true.”
“Interesting. Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship or is that part of the fable?” Rehm asked.
“I honestly don’t know but I have read that on the internet. You know, my dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket. He loved this country,” Sanders said. “I am, you know, I got offended a little bit by that comment, and I know it’s been on the Internet. I am obviously an American citizen and I do not have any dual citizenship.”
The Jewish Journal dug into Rehm’s comments, and found the “Zionist” list on a Palestinian activist Facebook page. Basically, it lists Congress’ Jews.
Rehm told the Jewish Journal that she “made a mistake.”
“Rather than asking Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders whether he had dual U.S./Israeli citizenship, as I had read in a comment on Facebook, I stated it as fact,” the host said. “He corrected me, saying he did not know where the question came from. I apologized immediately.”
“I want to apologize as well to all our listeners for having made an erroneous statement. I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.”
Anti-Defamation League leader Abe Foxman told the Jewish Journal that “Ms. Rehm’s description and follow-up question about whether other senators have dual citizenship with Israel play into classic anti-Semitic charges of dual loyalty.”
“Such charges have been leveled for centuries and have been a catalyst for scapegoating and vilifying Jews,” Foxman added. “Senator Sanders deserves a public apology, as do NPR listeners.”
On her show today, Rehm said she “raised the issue of dual citizenship with senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders” as “this is an issue that’s come up over the years in American politics.” She said she received the question from a commenter on Facebook.
“I should’ve explained to him, and to you, why I felt this was a relevant question and something he might like to address,” she said. “I do apologize to Sen. Sanders, and to you, for having made an erroneous statement. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.”