Diane Rehm (/ˈriːm/; born Diane Aed; September 21, 1936) is a former American public radio talk show host. Her program, The Diane Rehm Show, was distributed nationally and internationally by National Public Radio. The show was produced at WAMU, which is licensed to American University in Washington, D.C.
Rehm had announced her plans to retire from hosting the show after the 2016 elections. The final program was recorded and distributed on December 23, 2016. Rehm has announced she will be hosting a weekly podcast beginning January, 2017. A new program produced by WAMU, titled 1A, will play in the vacated timeslot.
The Washington Post describes Rehm as a leading voice in the right to die debate.
Rehm was born in Washington, D.C. According to Rehm's autobiography, Finding My Voice, her father's family were Eastern Orthodox Christians from Ottoman Mersin, a city on the southern coast of Anatolia. According to Rehm, the family were Arabs, and her mother was an educated woman who was fluent in both French and Arabic. Rehm's father immigrated to America in 1911, following his older brothers. He returned to Mersin to marry her mother, but found that she and her family were living in Alexandria, Egypt. He brought her to America in 1929; family memories of how the two met vary. In a 2012 interview in The Washingtonian, she describes her father as coming from Beirut, Lebanon.
Rehm attended William B. Powell Elementary and Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, she was employed by the city's highways department, where she became a radio dispatcher. She never attended college.
Rehm married John Rehm, her second husband, in 1959; he was working at the State Department, she was working as a secretary. John Rehm died June 23, 2014 after he stopped eating and drinking to end his suffering from Parkinson's disease. After his death, Rehm became a staunch advocate for medical aid in dying, arguing that no one should suffer needlessly in the way that her husband did. She has two adult children, David and Jennifer.
Rehm has spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that affects the quality of her voice.
Rehm began her radio career in 1973 as a volunteer for WAMU's The Home Show. In 1979, she took over as the host of WAMU's morning talk show, Kaleidoscope, which was renamed The Diane Rehm Show in 1984.
Rehm has interviewed many political and cultural figures, including John McCain, Barack Obama, Madeleine Albright. She has said that her most touching interview was with Fred Rogers of the PBS program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, conducted just before his death. Rehm has described her interviews with Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton to have been "amazing experiences."
She has written three autobiographical books. The first, Finding My Voice, dealt with her traditional upbringing in a Christian Arab household, her brief first marriage and divorce, her 50-year marriage to John Rehm, raising her children, the first 20 years of her radio career, and her battles with depression, osteoporosis, and spasmodic dysphonia. Together with John Rehm she co-wrote Toward Commitment: A Dialogue about Marriage, which was published in 2002.
Her memoir, On My Own, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2016.
The final broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show was aired on December 23, 2016.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting report
In 2005, a private study funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting reported that Rehm booked 22 liberal guests for every 5 conservative guests. The study was criticized as a politicized attempt to, in Rehm's word, "scare" journalists with the accusation of liberal bias. One criticism of the study concerned its criteria of what constituted "liberal" – a category which included seemingly moderate Republicans such as Senator Chuck Hagel and former Representative Bob Barr. The study was commissioned by Kenneth Tomlinson, whose appointment to the chairmanship of the CPB by George W. Bush had been criticized by liberals as politically motivated. Tomlinson hired Indiana consultant Frederick W. Mann, a conservative thinker previously associated with the Young America's Foundation, which has described itself as "the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement".
A report on the study by the CPB's Inspector General, Kenneth Konz, criticized Tomlinson's methods; the report led to Tomlinson's immediate resignation in November 2005. According to the Washington Post, Rehm personally "called Mann's findings 'unprofessional and simplistic.' [and] added 'I've been booking shows for 25 years. I don't think they have any idea what it takes to achieve the professionalism and expertise and the right people to express a variety of points of view. . . . What [Kenneth Tomlinson]'s doing, I think, is trying to scare public broadcasters.' "
Rehm has been featured in three political movie documentaries: Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains, I.O.U.S.A., and Dinesh D'Souza's 2016: Obama's America which used her quote, "And then you've got the cover of Forbes magazine, a cover story by Dinesh D'Souza. I think nothing has turned my stomach so much in recent years as reading that piece."
2016 presidential debate
On June 10, 2015, Rehm interviewed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and stated that Sanders had dual citizenship with Israel; this was not true. Sanders denied that he holds dual citizenship, but Rehm repeated her assertion of the senator's dual citizenship as a fact. Rehm's statements were criticized by David Harsanyi in The Federalist for being an anti-Semitic smear. Sophia Tesfaye of Salon pointed out that Rehm apparently fell for an antisemitic canard and did not successfully fact-check her information before she conducted her interview with Sanders. In The Times of Israel, Gedalyah Reback stated that the interview was controversial because Rehm seemed to have accused a Jewish U.S. presidential candidate of maintaining secret Israeli citizenship.
Rehm apologized for her exchange with Sanders in a statement released later that day. "On today's show I made a mistake. 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. I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest." Journalist Josh Marshall called her apology, "a total crock." Law professor David Bernstein found it strange that both Rehm and her producer fell for what he felt was an obvious anti-Semitic hoax. He speculated that frequently-heard strange accusations about Jewish supporters of Israel may have played a role. Elizabeth Jepsen, NPR's ombudsman, took issue with both Rehm's interview and apology: "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." Thomas Lifson in the American Thinker said that Diane Rehm "has unmasked herself as an anti-semite".
Following the 2014 death of her husband—who was unable to get physician assisted suicide drugs due to their illegality in Maryland—Rehm became an advocate for right to die. NPR's ombudsman deemed that her related fundraising for Compassion & Choices violated the NPR ehtical standards, and she agreed to stop attending fundraising dinners.
Honors and awards
A partial list of Rehm's honors and awards:
- 1999 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine.
- 2000 Fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists, honoring extraordinary contributions to journalism.
- 2003 Calvary Women's Services Hope award, honoring her volunteer and professional work for women in need.
- 2003 Montgomery County Chapter of the National Organization for Women's Susan B. Anthony Award, honoring her advocacy of women's right in the community.
- 2006 Urbino Press Award
- 2009 Peabody Award (presented in 2010)
- 2010 Foremother Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Research Center for Women & Families
- 2013 ACCESS Arab-American of the Year
- 2013 National Humanities Medal
- "Personal Award: Diane Rehm". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "The President Presents the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal". White House. Retrieved October 13, 2014.