Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas announced Monday (6/7) that she is retiring, effective immediately. The move was announced by her current employer, Hearst News Service, following controversial remarks she made last week that Jews should get out of Israel.
Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, had long been critical of the actions of Israel in the Middle East, but her comments last week brought public outrage. After a White House event honoring Jewish heritage, Thomas told a rabbi that Israel “should get the hell out of Palestine,” and the Jews should go back to Poland or Germany.
The video was posted on YouTube (see below) and led to demands that Hearst fire Thomas. It did not, but the 89-year-old veteran of the White House Press Room sent herself into retirement.
“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. 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,” Thomas said in a statement.
Thomas, who will mark her 90th birthday on August 4th, began her long career in national-level journalism in 1944 when she was hired to write on “women’s” topics for the United Press International radio wire. She pushed herself into meatier topics and after covering President-elect John Kennedy, basically forced her way into the White House Press Room, gradually becoming the main correspondent for UPI. She also never left the White House Press Corps.
After 57 years with UPI, Thomas quit when what remained of the wire service was acquired in 2000 by News World Corporation, owned by followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. She remained in the White House Press Room briefly as a freelancer (and continued to be the only reporter with a chair assigned specifically to her, personally), but soon was hired by Hearst.
In all, Helen Thomas covered 10 presidents: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
RBR-TVBR observation: A sad end to a glorious career. It was certainly no secret that Helen, as an Arab-American, supported the Palestinian cause and detested Israel, but she had never before made such intemperate remarks in public.