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Helen Thomas Retires After Controversial Comment on Palestine

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Hearst Newspapers announced Monday the immediate retirement of Helen Thomas in the midst of an uproar over her comments that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine."

"Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet," Hearst said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs issued a broadside about Thomas' remarks during a nationally televised briefing with Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked by a reporter if he had discussed Thomas' statement with President Obama, Gibbs replied, "I have not spoken with him directly on that. I'll say this . . . I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. I think she should and has apologized, because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of, I assume, most of the people in here and certainly not of the administration."

Ibrahim Hooper, director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, defended Thomas, though not her comments.

"Obviously her remarks were inappropriate," Hooper told AOL News in a phone interview. But, he said, "she's been a target of the pro-Israeli lobby for quite some time. She obviously gave them an opportunity to marginalize her voice in the media."

On May 27, Rabbi David F. Nesenoff of the website RabbiLive asked Thomas if she had any comments on Israel.

"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said. "Remember, these people are occupied. And it's their land. It's not German, it's not Poland." When Nesenoff asked Thomas where the Israelis should go, she said they should "go home" to Germany, Poland and the U.S.

The 89-year-old Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, was the first female member of the White House Correspondents' Association and the prestigious Gridiron Club. She has covered the White House since the 1960s.

She began her career as a correspondent with United Press International in 1943. According to her website, she has covered the administrations of 10 U.S. presidents.

Video of the gaffe has been widely circulated on the Internet.

Thomas apologized on her website on June 4:
"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."
But Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, demanded a "more sincere" apology.

"Helen Thomas' statement of regret does not go far enough," he said in a statement. "Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."

Before Hearst's announcement of Thomas' retirement, Ari Fleischer, the former spokesman for President George W. Bush, said the Hearst news organization should fire her: "As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling."

Lanny Davis, former White House counsel under President Clinton, called Thomas "an anti-Semitic bigot."

Over the weekend, Thomas lost her contract with the speaking agency Nine Speakers.

"Ms. Thomas has had an esteemed career as a journalist, and she has been a trailblazer for women, helping others in her profession and beyond. However, in light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East," agency President Diane Nine said in a statement.

On Sunday, a high school in Bethesda, Md., canceled plans for Thomas to deliver a speech at its graduation ceremonies.

"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," Walt Whitman High School Principal Alan Goodwin wrote in an e-mail to students and parents.

On June 5, Sarah Palin took to her Twitter feed to condemn Thomas' "racist rant" -- and unidentified members of the media who Palin said had condoned it.

"Helen Thomas press pals condone racist rant? Heaven forbid 'esteemed' press corps represent society's enlightened elite; Rest of us choose truth," the ex-governor tweeted.

Joe Klein of Time magazine called Thomas' words "odious." He said Thomas should no longer be allowed to sit in the front row in the White House Press Room, where she is an honorary fixture.

"I don't see any reason why the president, Robert Gibbs or any other representative of the government should feel any obligation to take her questions," Klein wrote.

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Hooper, Thomas' emotions might have "got the best of her."


Filed Under: Helen Thomas

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135 Comments

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cleo

Helen Thomas's comments put a pall over her
entire press corp service. She doesn't
represent America's values. It taints her
journalistic history, and her Lebonese
background is, apparently alien to what
the United States' principles.

January 19 2011 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Millie

We are all subject to dismissal by our employers if our spoken or written opinion is offered on their paid time and the subject is not to their liking. We have freedom of speech in the world if we are out on our own soapbox, or writing on our own computer, or with our own pencil. Even then, some nitwit might come by and shoot us for our opinion, but then he will be the one to pay for his act. I am surprised that Helen, with all her experience, did not know better than to offer those opinions on her own time, maybe in a book, or a speech given to an audience who wanted to hear her opinion.

June 09 2010 at 2:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Marsha and Marty

According to what I heard, she stated her opinion. Don't agree with everything that was reported but still respect what she had to say. Always enjoyed her interviews and her moxy.

June 08 2010 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul

Helen Thomas is an icon of truth and getting to the truth. When no correspondent could ask an American President a question, she had the moxie, to do it. So, now when asked her feelings on Israeli Occupation of Palestine, she gives her opinion, and noone likes it. Isn't that freedom of speech? She has her opinion, and perhaps, someone else has theirs. But, today, we have to carefully choose how we make and state an opinion, to not offend anyone. Sounds like milk toast to me. I don't know about anyone else, but I would rather know how someone really feels, than to hear the same old drool that we hear from every other public figure! Apparently, today, noone has the balls to either be upfront with their true feelings on a subject or to be honest.

Helen, apparently, it takes a 90 year old woman with balls, to get some honest feelings about a subject, today. Atta, girl.

June 08 2010 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jacqueline

It is incredible that you can be so reviled and attacked for expressing an opinion in this country. There happens to be more than one point of view other than that Israel can do and say whatever they want and America has to like it because they are allies. If Arabs had shot an American aid worker in the head four times at close range, no one would be screaming that they were within their rights to protect themselves.

It really is chilling that someone with the career of Helen Thomas can be dismissed for speaking her mind about an oppressed people. I guess free speech isn't worth the price of spit.

June 08 2010 at 11:02 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jacqueline's comment
rowdy2324

Last I checked, the 1st Amend. still protects Helen Thomas' right to say whatever she likes. She wasn't prosecuted in a court of law for her bigoted and anti-semitic statement. But she is facing the consequences for the decision to share her racist and bigoted views with the press. Strange as it may seem to you, Jacqueline, most people in America are offended by racism, bigotry and anti-semitism.

June 09 2010 at 12:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
RON

Can you believe that this woman sat in her seat for so long....
and kept her real views private......

good riddance

June 07 2010 at 10:55 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
FRED HUGHES

I may not like what Helen said but in this country, she had every right to say it. We have to hear Rush Lumbaugh, Glen Beck and all those other jerks spew out their insults and trash all day on the airwaves and they can keep their jobs. I also feel that we treat Jews as if they can do nothing wrong and we all know that is a lie. They are no better than any other people on this earth and they aren't perfect either.They have good and bad leadership just like any other country. But for some reason we are treating them like they are untouchables.

June 07 2010 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rak458

She stayed way to long because she was very biased and that is the problem with reporters now days. Gather facts, report them. In her time she may have been good, but for 25 years or so she was a dinosaur.

June 07 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Big DaDDy

Ahh, finally someone of importance spoke out on the jews. I praise her !!!!

June 07 2010 at 8:31 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
avanticrzy

Finally, someone who isn't afraid of Israel. I can't imagine that the Jews would really leave Israel, but they should at least get out of Palestine!!!!

June 07 2010 at 7:32 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to avanticrzy's comment
Michael

Jews were in Jerusalem a millennium before the birth of the prophet Mohammad.

June 07 2010 at 8:17 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

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