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NPR Owns Up to Diane Rehm’s ‘Bungled Interview with Bernie Sanders’

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From NPR Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen:

Rehm said the idea of dual citizenship, “did not seem to me to be such an outrageous question because people have it.” But, she added, “The terrible mistake was not realizing that these lists had been put up by anti-Semitic groups.” None of her producers, she said, were aware of the lists or their source.

But pulling unsubstantiated information from the Internet is just part of the problem. (An important part, to be sure: Mark Memmott, NPR’s standards editor, has weighed in on that aspect with a reminder that “The old newsroom adage ‘if your mother says she loves you, check it out,’ applies to information on the Internet as well.”) Jeff Brodin, a listener in Phoenix, Ariz., objected to a part of her apology that troubled me, as well: “She says she is glad to help quell the rumor. What? She is the one who published the rumor on the air as fact!”

I agree. Far from putting anything to rest, Rehm has now taken a falsehood from the fringes of the Internet and moved it into the mainstream conversation. In a harsh commentary, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wrote yesterday that to ask an incendiary question just so it can be knocked down is essentially “dignifying, laundering hate speech.”

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