A Facebook Comment Makes the News

Yesterday NPR’s Diane Rehm interviewed Senator Bernie Sanders. During the interview, Rehm told Sanders that he is a citizen of Israel:

At the 24-minute mark, Rehm says to Sanders, “Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel,” to which Sanders replies, “Well… No, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I am an American. I do not know where that question came from.

“I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I am an American citizen. I am an American citizen, period,” said Senator Sanders.

Rehm replied, speaking very slowly and with great difficulty: “I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list. Forgive me if that is…”

“Now that is some of the nonsense that goes on the internet,” replied Sanders.

“Interesting,” said Rehm, who then asked, “Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship or is that part of the fable?”

“Honestly I don’t know,” said Sanders. “My dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket and loved this country,” he added.

“I get offended a little bit by that comment,” he said to the NPR host. “I am obviously an American citizen and I do not have any dual citizenship.”

“Alright,” Rehm replied, before moving on to ask Sanders about whether he believes “Palestine” should be recognized.

Rehm has since apologized, and explained that she got the idea that Sanders has dual citizenship from a comment on Facebook:

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.

If that strikes you as bizarre–NPR reporter assumes everything anyone writes on Facebook is true!–trust me, it isn’t. Frequently, stories that make their way into the “mainstream” press begin as articles or blog posts on far out, left-wing sites like the Daily Kos and Think Progress. Reporters shamelessly mine these sites for story ideas that fit their agenda. A lot of nonsense gets reported this way, and, in some cases, retracted. What is unusual about the Rehm/Sanders story is that it started with a comment on Facebook, not a particularly left-wing information source.

I doubt that there is a single issue on which I agree with Bernie Sanders, but I sympathize with him here. He must have been befuddled as to why anyone would think he is an Israeli citizen, a claim that apparently is made on certain “anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian conspiracy websites.” For a brief moment, Sanders must have felt almost like a Republican.