11 June 2015

Diane Rehm Will Keep Her Job, but She Shouldn't

As you may or not be aware, yesterday Diane Rehm asserted to Bernie Sanders that he had dual US/Israeli citizenship:
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.
Later Rehm kinda-sorta apologized by claiming that she had gotten this question from a comment on her Facebook page:
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.
At least she isn't blaming an intern, but it still shows, at a minimum, a recklessness with truth that is appalling.

Then again, it could be malice, and I'm inclined to believe that this was malice, because, as Josh Marshall so ably observes, it is inconceivable that she does not know the subtext that even asking the question would raise:
I don't expect much more to come of this Diane Rehm/Sanders brouhaha, mainly because Rehm has such profound buy-in and goodwill from media and political figures in Washington; because Sanders himself isn't making a big deal out of it; and because the people who usually bang the pans loudest about anti-Semitism themselves aren't fully invested because they don't share Sanders' politics (though they're certainly not ignoring it). But if you're asking me, Diane Rehm's explanation is a complete crock.

If you read Rehm's explanation from her show this morning, a reader on Facebook gave her a 'list' and suggested she ask Sanders about it. Her mistake was stating it as a fact and asking him to respond to that fact rather than asking it as a question. Now, even though she mishandled the question, she's glad she could help put the rumor to rest.

That's bullsh%$.


If someone were totally oblivious to history, contemporary politics or anything about public affairs, I could see where maybe you read that and think, "Wow, that's amazing. I had no idea."

But as someone who has been running a very sophisticated and literate public affairs program for decades, that does not remotely apply to Rehm. Not even remotely close. There is simply no way you read one of these and do not know that at the very, very best you are asking a highly incendiary question that has a long history in anti-Semitic diatribes. I guess you could speculate, well, maybe despite all that, Sanders really does hold Israeli nationality? Let's ask him. But coming from one of these 'lists' on the web? Again, it does not remotely hold up.

I think the only way you find yourself saying this is if you are totally oblivious to what you are saying and relying entirely on a researcher to feed you lines (the theory Sanders puts forward) or you have a worldview that makes these kind of anti-Semitic canards plausible.

Let's hit the other point. It's not just a matter of stating as a fact vs asking a question. If you're interviewing President Obama and you ask him whether Osama bin Laden is his brother or whether he's conspiring with Iran to destroy America, that's not just a question. Why not ask an African-American congressman if he's held up any 7-Elevens recently? People are going to say, rightly, WTF is your problem? It's not a question, at least not phrased anything like that. You're dignifying, laundering hate speech. And when you get a flat denial you're not helping put the rumor to rest. That's CYA after the fact.
(%$ mine)

I believe that what Rehm can only be ascribed to malice.  I am not suggesting that Rehm has an antisemitism problem, I am not a mind reader, but I am suggesting that this indicates a bias against Sanders.

One also has to remember that the VSPs inside the DC Beltway have a narrative in which Sanders is not electable, and sh%$ like this is the inevitable result.


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