June 6th, 2010
07:54 PM ET
5 years ago

Helen Thomas under fire for saying Jews in Israel should go back to Germany, Poland


Washington (CNN) – Lanny Davis joined Ari Fleischer Sunday in calling for Hearst Corporation to take quick action against legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas for recently saying that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and that the Jewish people should go home to “Poland, Germany … and America and everywhere else.”

Thomas was also dropped by her agent Nine Speakers, Inc. Sunday, CNN has learned, and Craig Crawford, who coauthored “Listen Up, Mr. President” with Thomas, said in a blog post that he “will no longer be working with Helen on our book projects.”

Thomas has apologized for her comments that she made to Rabbilive.com about Israel.

Specifically, she was asked, “Any comments on Israel?”

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she responded.

The interviewer then asked “Any better comments on Israel?” To which Thomas said, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German’s. It’s not Poland’s.”

Thomas was then asked where the Jews in Israel should go and what they should do? Thomas responded, “They should go home” which the White House reporter identified as “Poland, Germany . . . and America and everywhere else.”

Thomas is considered the “dean” of the White House press corps after decades covering the presidency. The syndicated columnist for Hearst Corporation’s newspapers holds a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room where she regularly fires sharp questions on the major issues of the day at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

In the apology posted on her website Friday, Thomas said she “deeply” regretted her comments. “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.”

But her apology was not enough for Davis, who served as special counsel to former President Bill Clinton.

“Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot,” said Davis. “This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.”

Davis added, “If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials - much less a privileged honorary seat?”

Previously Fleischer, who served as press secretary for former President George W. Bush, said Thomas should be fired because of her remarks. And in a statement provided to CNN Sunday he reiterated that demand.

“Helen's statement calling for the religious cleansing of Israel is reprehensible,” Fleischer said. “If this isn't bigotry, what is? What she said is as bad as someone saying all blacks should leave America and go back to Africa.

“Hearst Newspapers should do the right thing and let Helen go,” Fleischer added in the statement.

Update, 8:33 p.m.: The Anti-Defamation League has provided CNN with a written statement regarding Thomas' remark and apology. "Helen Thomas’s statement of regret does not go far enough. Her remarks were outrageous, offensive and inappropriate," ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman said in the statement. Foxman added, "Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history. We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."


Filed under: Helen Thomas • Israel • Middle East • Popular Posts
soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Lenny

    If the White House Correspondents Association does not come out with a strong condemnation of Helen Thomas' remarks, then they are demonstrating that they are just as biased and bigoted as she is. If any other group, such as Muslims, had been subjected to such a statement, the reported would not be allowed to darken the door of the White House again. Yes she is entitled to her opinions, but the White House and the Correspondents Association should not provide their endorsement of her clear bias by allowing her to retain her press credentials.

    If Hearst does not take immediate, strong, disciplinary action, such as firing her, they too indicate the advocate a double standard and thereby should not be viewed as a legitimate news organization.

    June 6, 2010 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  2. Nickster

    Not one mention in the article about the fact that Helen Thomas is of Arab ancestry. Seems to be a relavent point to me.

    June 6, 2010 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  3. Dean Eiteman

    I am really surprised that Helen Thomas said what she said. Her comments about Israel were extremely foolish. She should no longer be in the front row at White House briefings; move her to the very last row. My respect for her has greatly diminished.

    June 6, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  4. thor

    Showed how she truely feels and now is sorry that most people don't believe that way.Racist to the core !!!!

    June 6, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  5. Chris2

    Doubt it if you want. Ol Bill Shakespeare just spoke from Hades: "There's a method to her madness.Look back six months from now, you'll know."

    June 6, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  6. Les

    Considering her tenure, I am amazed at the hoopla about this remark. Considering the criminal acts Israel has undertaken against Gaza, and murder on the highs seas and, in the recent murders committed by the Mussad (sp.?) in Dubai, I am frankly amazed that they haven't received more criticism. At the very least an international trade embargo would be justified against Israel for their murderous activities. Every remark that criticizes Israel is not anti-Semite. Far more Native Americans were killed by the US gov't in its illegal acquisition and 'resettlement than Jews were killed in Germany Same goes for the Church murdering people who were pagans. On going genecide is rampant in Darfur today. I think they protest too much over an angry women who has taken a stand against the illegal activities currently engaged in by Israel.

    June 6, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  7. Earl Hatleberg

    I don't think you can expect any Anti-Defamation League to see anything clearly.

    And for Davis to equate the enslaved Africans who were brought to this country against their will with the European Jews who through political power were awarded a new nation that displaced another population is just plain irrational.

    If you want to undo injustice, return the United States to the native Americans; return all African nations to native Africans; give back the Amazon to the indiginous tribes. And, yes, send all the decendants of those who took their land back home.

    June 6, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  8. John

    Shame we live in the United States, where people cannot have an opinion.

    June 6, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  9. Tolepainter_1

    Seriously, it's time she retired! She apparently is sufferning from some form of dimentia.

    June 6, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  10. Caron Speas

    Jews suffer from the same egg shell, knee jerk reactions as blacks when someone comes anywhere near telling it like it is. "oh, you're so bigoted!" Because the Jews have suffered from bigotry and because blacks have suffered from bigotry, they now stand in an unassailable position. Unassailable, because anyone speaking out against the Jewish (or black) agenda is labeled a bigot. These two groups of humans are making certain that they benefit from the ravages of bigotry. The benefit? Everyone else's inability to criticize them without being labeled a bigot. Yet, the Israelis deserve criticism for their land grabbing, pushy, greedy ways in the Middle East. But anyone who criticizes them is immediately labeled a bigot. How convenient.

    June 6, 2010 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  11. Shannon

    Leave Helen alone.

    Israel needs to end the expansion and occupation or be forced out.

    June 6, 2010 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  12. ANON

    I support Thomas. Just because the truth hurts, it still needs to be said. The Jews are occupying land that belongs to the Palestinians.

    June 6, 2010 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  13. Daniel Brouchard

    Good for her! It's time to take a stand against Israel and for the real story of what has/is happening to the Palestinians. And, no I'm not an anti-semite, which Jews always call anyone that criticizes Israel.

    June 6, 2010 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  14. bill stapp

    This is a good start. Now let's get after the members of the media who have lied about military service, who have embellished their resumes, and who have unethically written an article and selectively chosen a viewpoint with the hope gaining of personal recognition instead of covering the story for the good an informed public.

    June 6, 2010 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  15. Richard Larson

    The problem with this knee-jerk reaction is that she is essentially historically correct. The greatest historical animosity toward Palestinians is held by those who have immigrated to Palestine and those in the US and Europe who support them regardless of the international trouble they cause.

    Any non-biased observer must acknowledge that the Jews learned their lessons and tactics from the Gestapo and the SS in how they treat anybody who disagrees with them especially if they are Arabic or Palestinians. The Jewish movement into the occupied territories mirrors exactly Hitler's Sudentinland movement into Czechoslovakia and Poland.

    Jews, and Americans also must remember that Anti-Semitism also refers to anti-arab violence. The Jews scream anti-semitism at every juncture, but they are the world's most violent proponents of that practice and cultural violence.

    June 6, 2010 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  16. steve

    Thomas should be fired, that much is obvious. If she is allowed to keep her priveleged seat at WH briefings, it shows that the WH is also anti-semitic (which given Obama's position on Israel does not surprise me).

    June 6, 2010 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  17. Jane

    The comment was anti-Israeli, not anti-Semitic. And comparing it to saying all black people should leave America and return to Africa is ridiculous- that would only apply if black people had taken over America and forced the people living there before them to live in small, controlled areas.

    June 6, 2010 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  18. eddale

    Suppose she had said all white people should go back to Europe?

    June 6, 2010 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  19. Philippe

    I hope the first part of her comments is not over shadowed by the second, in that "Israel should get the hell out of Palestine", indeed. Like it or not the jews are making the Palestinians pay for what Hitler's Germany is guilty of.

    June 6, 2010 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  20. Carl

    To be honest, she is telling the truth, as much as I support the jews, she is telling the truth.

    June 6, 2010 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  21. Wil Barr

    It was about time that somebody said it, my hat to a courageous Helen Thomas and shame on Ari F for comparing the Israeli occupiers to Blacks in America, wake up CNN it is about time

    June 6, 2010 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  22. Mike

    At least she is saying what others are thinking. Everyone should leave this outstanding reporter alone. Worse things have been said with less political propaganda demonstrated. Lets focus on the more important things in this world than a few words.

    June 6, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. A. Hardy

    Davis added, “If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa..."

    Black people were brought to the States against their will. Israelis willingly went to Palestine. Big difference.

    "“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”" David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel

    June 6, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  24. Don Brown

    Good for her! It's time to take a stand against Israel and for the real story of what has/is happening to the Palestinians. And, no I'm not an anti-semite, which Jews always call anyone that criticizes Israel.

    June 6, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  25. Ruth Schwartz

    Helen Thomas' statements about Israel and its people to go back to Poland and Germany are not only historically incorrect, but she is downright anti Semitic. She should leave the United States and go back to Lebanon where she came from. Her remarks are insulting to the entire Jewish population and highly insensitive to a people who survived the Holocaust. If she would have made the same remarks about any other religion, her White House credentials would have been revoked immediately. Shame on the Hearst Publication for not firing her and the White House for not revoking her Journalist’s credentials.

    June 6, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
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