US Jewish politician takes offense to 'dual citizenship with Israel' canard

Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont, is running for the Democratic nomination for president.

June 10, 2015 22:33
2 minute read.
Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a town-hall campaign stop at New England College in Concord, New Hampshire. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who is vying for the Democratic nomination for president, took offense on Wednesday to a statement from a radio talk show host who suggested that he is a dual Israeli-American citizen.

According to a report in the online news magazine Politico, Sanders, who is Jewish, was surprised when WAMU radio host Diane Rehm remarked during their interview, "Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel."

The liberal senator, who is officially an independent but is running as a Democrat, replied: "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, whose show is syndicated nationwide by National Public Radio, said that she learned of Sanders’ purported citizenship status from “a list” that was circulating on the Internet which alleges that a number of senior figures in Congress and the administration hold Israeli citizenship.

"That's some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet. But that is absolutely not true," Sanders said.

When Rehm asked Sanders if there is truth to the Internet claims, Sanders grew offended. "I honestly don't know but I have read that on the Internet," he said. "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."

The radio host later apologized for what she called an "erroneous statement:" On Wednesday's program, "I made a mistake," she said in a statement. "Rather than asking Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders whether he had dual US/Israeli citizenship, as I had read in a comment on Facebook, I stated it as fact."

After being corrected by Sanders, Rehm said she "immediately" apologized, adding that she was happy to "play a role in putting this rumor to rest."

Sanders, 73, who was born in Brooklyn to Polish immigrant parents, officially launched his 2016 campaign at an event last month in Burlington, Vermont. The self-described democratic socialist is an Independent but will run for president as a Democrat.

Sanders, who was the mayor of Burlington from 1981 to 1989, is currently the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and previously was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

He will be a long shot to capture the party’s nomination, as Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and US senator, still leads the other potential Democratic candidates by over 50 percentage points.

JTA contributed to this report.

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