Diane Rehm's massive Bernie Sanders "oops": NPR host falls for anti-Semitic Israeli citizenship hoax

In big fact-checking fail, Rehm asks senator about his (non-existent) dual citizenship

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published June 10, 2015 7:07PM (EDT)

Bernie Sanders                            (AP/Cliff Owen)
Bernie Sanders (AP/Cliff Owen)

NPR host Diane Rehm apparently fell for an internet hoax today when she falsely asserted that Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held dual citizenship with Israel, forcing the Senator to snap back at the claim as "nonsense" on the internet and "absolutely not true."

During an interview with the 2016 hopeful today, the host of NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show" falsely asserted that the senator has "dual citizenship with Israel."

Sanders quickly interjected, correcting the host, "Well, no, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel....I am an American."

Sanders, who is Jewish, made clear that he resented "some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet" telling Rehm that he was offended by her question. For her part, Rehm claimed to have ascertained Sander's citizenship status from a "list":

Diane Rehm: Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel.

Bernie Sanders: 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. No, I'm an American citizen, period.

Rehm: I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list.

Sanders: No.

Rehm: Forgive me if that is—

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 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. 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.

A quick Google search reveals Sanders' name included in bizzare Facebook groups and forums that go back to 2008, purporting to list all former government officials holding dual Israeli-American citizenship.

Listen to the exchange below:

Update [4:27]: Rehm apologized for relying on a Facebook comment and presenting the rumor as fact to the Senator in a statement to Politico:

On today's show I 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. He corrected me, saying he did not know where the question came from. I apologized immediately," Rehm said. "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


By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Elections Diane Rehm Israel Npr Sen. Bernie Sanders Video