Political Headlines June 7, 2010: Helen Thomas Quits White House Correspondent Position After Outrage for Anti-Semitism Remarks

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama shared birthday cake with Helen Thomas on August 9, 2009. The day is the birthday for both — Obama turned 48, Thomas turned 89.

THE HEADLINES….

  • Helen Thomas quits: Helen Thomas quit her job with Hearst in the wake of mounting outrage over her assertion that Israeli Jews should “return” to Poland, Germany and the United States.
    “Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately,” said a statement issued Monday by the Hearst Corp. “Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.” – JTA, 6-7-10
  • Helen Thomas retires in flap over Israel remarks: 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. AP, 6-7-10
  • Helen Thomas ends 5-decade career in controversy: After more than 50 years covering the White House, journalist Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring immediately from Hearst Newspapers, amid controversy over remarks she recently made about Israel.
    Hearst News Service broke the news Monday, noting that Thomas’ “decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.”… – AP, 6-7-10
  • Rabbi sat on Thomas scoop as webmaster-son took exams: When veteran journalist Helen Thomas made inflammatory remarks about Israel, the comments weren’t captured by a major news organization. Instead, a rabbi and his 17-year-old son broke the story.
    Right now, Rabbi David Nesenoff is drawing lots of new visitors to RabbiLive.com and its video of the dean of the White House press corps (now abruptly retired) telling Israel to “get the hell out of Palestine.” Although Nesenoff’s site is getting buzz and media pickup, the rabbi actually sat on the big scoop for a week.
    On May 27, Nesenoff attended the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House with son Adam and a friend of Adam’s. While walking across the front lawn Nesenhoff and the boys saw Thomas, and decided to ask her about her thoughts on Israel…. – AP, 6-7-10
  • Helen Thomas retires: Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately, in the wake of a controversy over her comments on Israel, according to a report from her employer, Hearst News Service.
    Thomas told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland.
    “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Thomas said in a statement on her Web site. “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.” WaPo, 6-7-10
  • White House press secretary Robert Gibbs assailed Thomas for her words: “Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible,” Gibbs said, noting that Thomas has apologized. Her sentiments “do not reflect certainly most of the people here and certainly not those of the administration.” –
  • The Board of the White House Correspondents Association statement follows:
    Helen Thomas’ comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them. 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.
    While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter.
    We want to emphasize that the role of the WHCA is to represent the White House press corps in its dealings with the White House on coverage-related issues. We do not police the speech of our members or colleagues. We are not involved at all in issuing White House credentials, that is the purview of the White House itself.
    But the incident does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the WH briefing room. That is an issue under the jurisdiction of this board. We are actively seeking input from our association members on this important matter, and we have scheduled a special meeting of the WHCA board on Thursday to decide on the seating issue.
    Ed Chen, Bloomberg
    David Jackson, USA Today
    Caren Bohan, Reuters
    Ed Henry, CNN
    Julie Mason, DC Examiner
    Don Gonyea, National Public Radio
    Steve Scully, C-SPAN
    Doug Mills, The New York Times
  • White House correspondent apologizes for Israel remarks: Thomas, 89, the longest-serving reporter in the White House press corps, was asked by the website RabbiLive.com during a May 27 “Jewish Heritage Celebration” at the White House whether she had any “comments on Israel.”
    “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” said Thomas, who served for decades as the White House correspondent for United Press International (UPI) and now writes a column for Hearst newspapers.
    “Remember these people are occupied and it’s their land, not German and not Poland,” Thomas said. “They can go home, Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else.” AFP, 6-7-10
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