Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) repeatedly denied during a radio interview with NPR host Diane Rehm on Wednesday that he has dual citizenship with Israel, bemoaning the “nonsense” people see on the Internet.
“Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel,” Rehm remarked on “The Diane Rehm Show.”
“Well, no, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel,” the 2016 presidential candidate responded.
“I’m an American,” he said. “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 added. “No, I’m an American citizen, period.”
“That’s some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet,” Sanders said. “But that is absolutely not true.”
Sanders then explained his family’s immigration history.
“You know, my dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket,” he said. “He loved this country.”
“I got offended a little bit by that comment, and I know it’s been on the Internet,” Sanders added. “I am obviously an American citizen, and I do not have any dual citizenship.”
Rehm, who said the information came from a “list,” also asked Sanders to identify other U.S. lawmakers who might hold a dual citizenship.
A Google search for the phrase “Bernie Sanders Israeli citizen” yields more than 27,000 results.
UPDATES 4:18 p.m.: Rehm apologized for her exchange with Sanders in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, noting that her claim about his citizenship status emerged from a “comment on Facebook” that she had read.
“On today’s show I made a mistake,” she said. “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,” Rehm added. “I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.”
UPDATE #2, 6 p.m.: The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) attacked Rehm’s “completely indefensible” questions in a statement released on Wednesday evening.
“It is appalling that in today’s age, a longtime Jewish elected official would face implications that he splits his loyalty between the United States and Israel for no reason other than his religion,” said Greg Rosenbaum, chair of the NJDC’s board of directors.
“This anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty has persisted for decades, particularly about American Jews in public service,” he said.
“There are no legitimate sources that claim that Sen. Sanders holds Israeli citizenship, and if Diane Rehm was citing one of the many dark, anti-Semitic corners of the Internet as her source, we have grave doubts as to her journalistic credentials,” Rosenbaum added.