Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) found himself in the middle of a bizarre situation today, when during an interview on WAMU’s Diane Rehm Show the Democratic presidential candidate was told incorrectly that he is a Jewish citizen. The senator from Vermont was the latest victim of an epidemic of lazy journalism that is sweeping the nation.
Here is how the exchange went down at the 24-minute mark of Sen. Sanders being interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show:
Rhem said, “Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel.”
“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 apologized and asked if there were any members of Congress that have dual citizenship, “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.”
Michael Briggs of the Sanders campaign released a generous statement in response to the controversy, “Diane Rehm is an excellent radio host. There’s a great big Internet out there with lots of good and bad information. I’ve never heard the question come up before.”
Rehm apologized again in a statement, “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. 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.”
I am not sure that anyone knew that the rumor existed before she said it. Diane Rhem is a good host who spent nearly an hour talking to Sen. Sanders today. The problem is that no one in the media should use Facebook as a source of information without double checking that information with a reliable source. There is lots of crazy and inaccurate information on the Internet.
Despite the millions of people who support Bernie Sanders, the vast majority of the country does not know much about the senator from Vermont. Sanders is an unknown to the vast majority of the electorate. He was victimized by a journalist who did not do her homework. As Rehm stated, her mistake was phrasing the dual citizenship point as a fact instead of asking a question. There is lots of credible information on Bernie Sanders. Rehm’s statement was an act of lazy journalism, and a perfect example of what happens when a member of the media does not do their homework.