(by Susan Davis, The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com) – Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old correspondent who joined the White House press corps when John F. Kennedy was president, retired Monday under fire days after saying Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Germany, Poland and the U.S.
Her employer, Hearst News Service, announced her retirement effective immediately. Ms. Thomas’s comments appeared Thursday in an online video that quickly went viral.
She apologized Friday on her personal website, saying her words “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.”[A daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Thomas did little to hide her pro-Arab views. During George W. Bush’s presidency, her questions to both the president and his press secretaries were almost exclusively about the war in Iraq.]
During the weekend, a speakers’ bureau dropped Ms. Thomas as a client and a high school pulled her appearance as a commencement speaker. Ex-George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer and Clinton ally Lanny Davis were among those calling on her to quit. …[At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday condemned the comments, calling them “offensive and reprehensible.” Thomas, who has had a front-row seat in the briefing room for many years, was not present.]
Ms. Thomas, the first woman to break into the White House reporting culture, long held a front-row center seat in the White House briefing room. [Working for United Press International, Thomas covered every president since the end of Dwight Eisenhower’s years and was known for her tough questioning. She was the first woman to be an officer of the National Press Club and the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.] A longtime reporter for United Press International, she in 2000 became an opinion columnist for Hearst, where she was free make her political views known. In a 2007 interview, she spoke critically of Ronald Reagan and praised the Clintons’ “resilience.” She was an unabashed critic of the Bush administration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, she quipped that if Vice President Dick Cheney ran for president she would commit suicide.
Write to Susan Davis at email@example.com.
NOTE: Bracketed text from a June 8 AP article posted at sfgate.com.
1. Who is Helen Thomas?
2. What is significant about Mrs. Thomas’ career?
3. What kind of professional response did Mrs. Thomas receive for her comments that Israel “should get the hell out of Palestine”?
4. Watch the video of Mrs. Thomas’ interview under “Resources” below. (For the entire interview, see the 2nd video.) The rabbi asks: “How can Helen possible report unbiased”? What do you think? Be specific.
NOTE: “Answers by Email” has ended for the summer–daily news postings will end June 11th — have a great summer!
WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS:
Watch a video of Mrs. Thomas’ answer to the question “Any comments on Israel?” during the Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House on May 27, 2010:
Watch the entire interview with Mrs. Thomas below: