: News

Filed Under:

Helen Thomas Retires In Flap Over Israel remarks

Play associated audio
Helen Thomas at an Annual book fair and authors' night at the National Press Club in November of 2009.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelfoleyphotography/
Helen Thomas at an Annual book fair and authors' night at the National Press Club in November of 2009.

WASHINGTON (AP) Longtime Washington journalist Helen Thomas abruptly retired Monday as a columnist for Hearst News Service following remarks she made about Israel that were denounced by the White House and her press corps colleagues.

The 89-year-old Thomas, dean of the White House press corps, has long been a fixture in Washington and has been lauded as a pioneering journalist who has covered presidents since 1960.

Known for her confrontational questioning, Thomas apologized for comments that were captured on video and have spread widely on the Internet. On the May 27 video, Thomas says Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or the U.S.

Hearst announced her retirement, effective immediately, shortly after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called her remarks "offensive and reprehensible."

The White House Correspondents Association also issued a rare statement, calling her comments "indefensible."

"Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trail blazer on the White House beat," said the statement, signed by journalists who are officers of the association.

Thomas had been scheduled to speak at the June 14 graduation of Walt Whitman High School in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md., but Principal Alan Goodwin wrote in a Sunday e-mail to students and parents that she was being replaced.

"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," Goodwin wrote.

Thomas wrote on her website that "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians."

She added: "They do not reflect my heart-felt 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."

The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, said Sunday that Thomas' apology didn't go far enough.

"Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history," Foxman said in a statement. "We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."

Thomas began her long career with the wire service United Press International in 1943, and started covering the White House in 1960, according to a biography posted on her website. She became a columnist for Hearst in 2000.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

NPR

Is It All Greek To You? Thank Medieval Monks, And The Bard, For The Phrase

Ben Zimmer, language columnist at The Wall Street Journal, explains the origin of the phrase "it's all Greek to me" — and shares a few variants from other languages.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.