Diane Rehm has apologized twice but still hasn't explained why she tried to sandbag Bernie Sanders with an idiotic Internet lie
"Any questions???" Yeah, one: What the hell is wrong with you? (Click to enlarge.)
"On today’s show I made a mistake. Rather than asking if 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. 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."
-- radio host Diane Rehm's first apology
"As I had read in a comment on Facebook"?
Well, no, this apology doesn't do it. "As I had read in a comment on Facebook"? This is now considered any kind of basis for sandbagging an interviewee as if the comment had even the slightest factual basis? Really now, how much sophistication does it take to know with a fair degree of certainty that the person who made the statement is (a) an idiot, (b) a liar, and (c) a scumbag as well as an anti-Semite? What could possibly lead someone who claims to be a serious broadcaster to even imagine that it's true? At least not without a whole lot more to back it up than "a comment on Facebook."
For the record, here's how the conversation went:
REHM: Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel.Notice that in the interview what Rehm later called "a comment on Facebook" was presented as "a list we have gotten." Might one point out that American right-wingers have an exceedingly unfortunate history with lists?
SANDERS: No, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I don't know where that question came from. I am an American citizen. I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions, but I am an American citizen. Period.
REHM: I understand from a list we have gotten that you are on that list. Forgive me if that ...
SANDERS: That's some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet, but that is absolutely not true.
REHM: Interesting. Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship, or is that part of the fable?
SANDERS: I don't know.
Rehm's subsequent fuller and more fully considered apology is arguably worse:
On yesterday’s show, I raised the issue of dual citizenship with Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. This is an issue that has come up over the years in American politics. One of our listeners suggested via our Facebook page that I ask Senator Sanders about Internet speculation that he has dual citizenship with Israel.Hmm, "I should have explained to him and to you why I felt this was a relevant question and something he might like to address." You mean, instead of hurling it on the air as an accusation? By the way, Diane, have you explained why you thought this was a relevant question, and something that the senator might like to address? I know that I for one would be interested in hearing that explanation.
But instead of asking it as a question I stated it as fact. That was wrong. He does NOT have dual citizenship and Senator Sanders immediately corrected me. I should have explained to him and to you why I felt this was a relevant question and something he might like to address. I apologize to Senator Sanders and to you for having made an erroneous statement. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.
As to the question Diane eventually did ask the senator, "Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship, or is that part of the fable?," the Washington Post's Amber Phillips fielded this one in a post yesterday on The Fix, "The strange, anti-Semitic Internet rumor that Bernie Sanders has Israeli citizenship":
We can answer that for you, Diane.Jonathan Vick suggests that the "dual citizenship" nonsense is a muddling of the Israeli "right of return," which as all Godfather II viewers know from that fine legal scholar Hyman Roth guarantees a right to enter Israel to all Jews. "This line is blurred," he told Phillips, "by these people who have this agenda to taint the Jewish members of Congress or the Obama administration at large." Phillips goes on to report:
This "fable" that there are members of Congress with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship is a cornerstone of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, extremist theories that are as old as the Internet and then some.
"The list is not something that comes out of thin air," said Jonathan Vick, a cyberthreat expert with the Anti-Defamation League. "It is something that evolves over time."
Vick said the dark and not-so-dark corners of the Internet are filled with lists purporting secret alliances with Israel between Jewish members of Congress, Jewish White House officials and virtually any Jewish American leader. A Google search for U.S. politicians with Israeli citizenship produces at least 7,000 results. Sanders, a Jewish Vermont independent who is running for president on the Democratic ticket, is one of the many victims of this misinformation.
"If you go and look back, every single administration has been accused in a similar fashion regarding their loyalties to the U.S.," Vick said, "and using Israel as a weapon in that argument."
Vick thinks these fake dual-citizenship lists sprouted and twisted from actual, accurate and meant-to-be informational lists of Jewish members of Congress. One or two of those lists he can pinpoint were published as far back as 2009 and later watched morph into the list that Rehm eventually picked up this week.We could pursue the subject of American anti-Semitism, and how deeply and broadly embedded it is, especially among the American Right -- and not just by Israel baiters like these list-makers but by righties who count themselves the deepest supporters of Israel. ("Anti-Semites for Israel" is what I usually call them.)
So is Diane going to explain why she thought this idiotic Internet lie was "relevant," and why she thought Senator Sanders might enjoy chatting about it?
However, for tonight I think we'll let it rest with the quite disturbing enough thought that supposedly respectable broadcaster (I gather that Rehm, who's of Christian Arab heritage, is regarded by the Right as some sort of flaming liberal) was capable of handling a piece of blatantly anti-Semitic propaganda as if it were some sort of "source," and did it in a way that was clearly intended to embarrass the person she was interviewing.
Ironically, the incident winds up making as inexcusable a bunch of liars and bullies as AIPAC look like innocent victims of lying and bullying. About the best that can be said of the whole business is that, at least from the transcript, Bernie Sanders handled it extremely well, coolly and decisively. He's an impressive guy, that Bernie. But we already knew that, didn't we?