: 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

Jack Davis, Cartoonist Who Helped Found 'Mad' Magazine, Dies

Money from a job illustrating a Coca-Cola training manual became a springboard for Jack Davis to move from Georgia to New York.
NPR

Cookie Dough Blues: How E. Coli Is Sneaking Into Our Forbidden Snack

Most people know not to eat raw cookie dough. But now it's serious: 46 people have now been sickened with E. coli-tainted flour. Here's how contamination might be occurring.
NPR

Regulators Draw Up New Rules To Stop Abusive Practices By Debt Collectors

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau receives more complaints about debt collection than any other issue.
NPR

Writing Data Onto Single Atoms, Scientists Store The Longest Text Yet

With atomic memory technology, little patterns of atoms can be arranged to represent English characters, fitting the content of more than a billion books onto the surface of a stamp.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.