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Diane Rehm Has A Question For President Trump: 'Are You Crazy, Or What?'

February 19, 2020 Diane Rehm Sarah Fenske
Howard Ash | Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Photographic Services

For three decades, Diane Rehm hosted a conversation with America. "The Diane Rehm Show" grew from a local show at NPR affiliate WAMU to a national juggernaut, with 2.8 million listeners every week. And even after her December 2016 retirement, Rehm has continued the conversation. She hosts a podcast; she also recently published her fourth book, “When My Time Comes.”

Earlier this week, in partnership with St. Louis on the Air, Rehm discussed her career at a dinner hosted by the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Foundation at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. We aired highlights from that conversation on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air — which included Rehm’s thoughts on interviewing and advocacy for the “death with dignity” movement.   

From the opening questions, Rehm came out swinging. She made it clear she had no desire to return to the show that made her a household name among NPR listeners. 

“Thirty-seven years was absolutely enough, and I was ready to relinquish that microphone,” she said. But, asked which guest she’d insist on booking if "The Diane Rehm Show" came back for just one day, she had a quick, emphatic answer: “Donald Trump!”

Rehm suggested she had an opening question ready to go. “Are you crazy, or what?”

“I would ask him [that],” she said. “For him to say, ‘I am the legal authority in this land,’ is he crazy, or what? I’m sorry for those who I offend, saying that. But I have to tell you, this man does not know the Constitution, does not know the rule of law, does not understand the way this government has worked for all of these years. So I feel very strongly about saying, ‘Does this man understand government?’”

Listen here:

Rehm also explained why, despite her antipathy for Trump, she sought to have him on her show during his campaign for the White House — and disagrees with those who say the media should refuse to give him a megaphone. She urged the audience to seek out unbiased reporting, not simply find media sources affirming their perspective.

“For the president to go unchallenged would be totally inappropriate. And he is not unchallenged on NPR. Too many of us have become accustomed to listening or watching one extreme or another,” Rehm said. “I would say to you that NPR, and your station here, is the station that will provide you with the honest and multi-viewed perspectives of what it is the president has to say.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.