Thomas resigns after anti-Israel remarks

US columnist said Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine."

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 8, 2010 04:55
2 minute read.
Helen Thomas

helen thomas 311. (photo credit: Rabbi David F. Nesenoff)

 
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WASHINGTON – Hearst News Service journalist Helen Thomas has resigned following comments on Jews and Israel many deemed offensive, her employer announced Monday.

“Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet,” the news organization said in a statement on the 89-year-old columnist, who for decades served as a wire service reporter and had a seat of honor in the White House newsroom because of her long tenure.

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Hours earlier, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had criticized her statements.

“I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible,” he said during a press briefing.

“Obviously those remarks do not reflect, certainly, the opinion of I assume most of the people in here, and certainly not of the administration.” The White House Correspondents Association also described her comments as “indefensible” in a rare statement, quoted by The Associated Press.

“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,” it read.

On Friday, after the controversy broke, Thomas apologize for her statements, but that didn’t satisfy critics at several Jewish organizations who called for her suspension and even ouster.

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“Helen Thomas has showed herself to be a bigot and her ‘apology’ fails to address the anti-Semitism of her comments,” said Jerry Silverman, president of The Jewish Federations of North America, in a statement. “She has no place in the White House briefing room and should at the very least be suspended.”

Thomas, who became a White House-based columnist for Hearst after decades as a UPI wire reporter, was recently caught on film saying of Israeli Jews, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine” and that they should “go home” to Poland, Germany, America and elsewhere.

She had been asked by Rabbi David Nesenoff what she thought about Israel, at the Jewish American Heritage Month reception held at the White House at the end of last month, and the interview was later posted on his Web site, www.rabbilive.com.

In the apology she posted Friday, she wrote, “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 Hearst Corporation didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from The Jerusalem Post Monday.

Thomas could not be reached.

But the veteran correspondent was quoted in The Washington Post earlier Monday as saying, “I’m very sorry for my remarks. I think I crossed the line. I made a mistake.”

Since the interview began appearing on YouTube, Thomas has also been dropped by her speaker’s bureau as well as disinvited from giving the commencement address at an area high school.

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