June 7th, 2010
12:27 PM ET
5 years ago

Helen Thomas has retired, Hearst announces

ALT TEXT

Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas, 89, (pictured, center) was considered the dean of the White House press corps and held a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) – Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas has retired effective immediately, Hearst Corporation said Monday.

The media conglomerate had employed Thomas, age 89, as a syndicated columnist for its newspaper chain.

Thomas, who was considered the dean of the White House press corps, had come under fire since late last week when a YouTube video surfaced showing her 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.”

In a posting on her website last Friday, Thomas apologized for her remarks. “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,” she wrote.

But the apology was not enough to silence critics who began a rising chorus of calls for Thomas either to be terminated or suspended by Hearst.

Related video: Ari Fleischer slams Thomas


Just prior to Hearst’s announcement, the board of the White House Correspondents Association released a statement condemning Thomas’ remarks. The group of White House reporters, which includes CNN’s Ed Henry, called Thomas’ remarks “indefensible.”

The reporters’ statement said, “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 trailblazer on the White House beat.”

And during a Monday morning briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also criticized Thomas, saying, "Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. I think she should and has apologized because obviously those remarks do not reflect the - certainly the opinion of, I assume, most of the people in here and certainly not of the administration."

Updated: 12:59 p.m.

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soundoff (323 Responses)
  1. S

    Mike S – It's all over UTUBE

    She sounded just like Hitler – let's get all the Jews out of here

    June 7, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Ana Klirew

    Free Speech or Hate Speech? If she had made the comment about any other nationality, you all would be up in arms about it.

    When its about the Jews or the Jewish State, all of a sudden the "FREE SPEECH" activists get excited. Why?

    As a Christian American, I am ashamed of many fellow Americans.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. kite005

    What? she has to go and AIPAC gets to stay? Maybe we are doomed like so many great, so to speak, societies before us.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Maggy

    I am sorry, but we have become way too political. The war with Germany is over, the war with the Indians, who land we stole is over, Martin Luther King died for the rights of blacks, and women can vote. People in wheel chairs are handicapped – they are not physically challenged and blind people are blind, not physically challenged. I am so tired of having to weigh in on what I am about to say.

    Can't we all just get along and forget about the slip-ups that normal people say. There will always be hated-filled racists in the world, and crazy religious right people, and dozens of other nut-bags who want to stir things up. We are not going to change that. But when someone says something like this, perhaps we should give them a pass. There are too many other important things in the world to worry about. Perhaps we should direct our angry at cleaning up this planet. Lip service is useless.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. Rob

    She should have been canned years ago.
    And, perhaps she should go back to where she came from !

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. Marcia

    Orion...There is no shame in speaking the truth. Speak the truth and the truth shall set you free!

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. D.

    After retirement she can go back to Tripoli, Lebanon (where her parents came from), where radical Islam wishes then to send them (Christian Lebanese) to Europe as well! (So, she is in the same boat as the Jews of Israel, in this respect). And should we follow her reasoning, President Obama can move to Kenya, no? What a senile pathetic non-self-serving idiot! Time to go home and play bingo!

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. c edgar

    She needed to go a long time ago.
    She was a reporter and knew not to become the reported.
    She just seems to hate! The news world is better off with out her.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. joe stevens

    I also think it is despicable that people on this forum are attacking her age. If you disagree with what she says then voice your opinion. Have some class.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Mr. Zippy

    Funny, I always thought she was Jewish - maybe because she reminded me of Golda Meir. What do I know.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. BD

    Throw momma from the train!! :)

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. WilmaWonka

    How disappointing that free speech has caused the retiring of one of the nations best free speech advocates.

    I do not believe her comments were anti-semetic, I believe she has chosen a side on the issue. Just because she's not on the Jewish side doesn't make her a hater of Jews.

    I'm a little surprised that she hasn't decided to stand up and hold her head high but I do understand that since she is up in years and probably had been thinking of getting out of the game, why she decided to do this now.

    I think it's a great loss to the journalist community.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Amanda

    John D.

    If you speak against Israel some may consider you anti-Semitic, if you speak out against Muslims you may just have a hit out on your life. Clearly you don't know who had that land first and clearly you haven't been reading the news in regards to what Muslims do when you say or do something they consider to be blasphemous or disrespectful.

    Good riddance to an ignorant, sad old woman.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Jack

    I don't get why we didn't just build Isreal in Kansas rather than in the middle east.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. James Smalley

    Helen Thomas was right! She said nothing about the Jews who have lived in Palestine for thousands of years but about those that went from Europe and America and displaced people who were already there. The Israelis do NOT respect the human rights of the people whose land they took – often by force. This is the only incident in the world where the occupiers are given sympathy and support and the oppressed are castigated. Of course, the mantra shouted against anyone who dares speak about Israeli abuse is that the speaker is "anti-Semitic," as though the people who are native to the region are not themselves Semitic!

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  16. Scott

    Libs, if the President's policies are criticized the critic is racist. It only follows......if you criticize Israel, you MUST be anit-semitic.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. Gregg

    United Nations, 1947, Resolution 181 approves the creation of Israel, the Jewish State. Sorry, but the word "Occupation" does not apply.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. peter

    she needs to go back where she came from, a zoo. she looks like a monkey. go to hell you jew hater.

    June 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. David Chavez

    I just bought one of her books! All supporters shold do the same.
    lol at all the haters. You can't handle the truth so character assassination is your last resort.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. JR

    She didn't just criticize Israel. She suggested that Israel is illegitimate and said that Israelis should "go back to Germany and Poland", where they were subjected to genocide. Is there really another side to the argument of whether her hate speech should lead to her firing?

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. Harry

    She did not get into hot water for being anti-Israel, she has been that for decades. She has to go because her remarks were anti-semitic. Telling Jews to go back to Poland and Germany where 6 million were killed was blatant anti-semitism. Also consider her viewpoint from the fact that she is originally from Lebanon.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. barbara

    She is a person, not unlike many, who truly hates a race of people simply because she/they can. It seems like, if nothing else, this administratiuon has truly divided the masses into those who are poor and those who are rich, those that are christain and those that are not, those that are black and those that are white, those that speak english and those that do not, those that hate big business and those that do not, those that are for big govt and those that are not etc etc etc. I have never in my entire life seen the hate and division that has occured so openly since Obama took office. I thought he was the great uniter? As for Helen, she just fell into the mindset that it is a-ok to voice your true feelings because if anyone opposes it well they must be racist.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  23. jules

    She should go back to Lebanon where she came from. As for Israel, if someone was firing rockets into your country every day, and purposely targeting civilians, not illegal ships, that would be a different story. Israel is fed up and they should be. No land is "given" to anybody, they fought and won it like everyone else including Americans taking land. Maybe we should "give" back the Louisiana Purchase.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  24. Jess

    Free Speech is gone. Not saying that Jewish folk should leave Israel, but we need to be able to talk frankly about what is going on with out instantly being called anti semites. CHECK YOUR HISTORY BOOKS PEOPLE! Israel is occupying another state and has been working to expand it's borders to what it sees religiously as theirs since 1968 when they invaded 3 of their neighbors, and we are still fighting border disputes over it. It may not be PC to speak the truth, but It is historical FACT that European Jews migrated to populate Israel post WWII. Facts over PCness and emotion here people, FACTS!

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  25. Ed Reilly

    That is a shame. Though she could have worded better, her remarks were NOT anti-Semitic, but rather against the Jewish people being given a country, Palestine, lived in by Palestinians in 1948. One of the two former White House spokesmen assailing her presented an idiotic comparison with his stating that would be the same if we told all the African-Americans to go back to Africa. Those people were brought in as SLAVES, and not given a state of territory as was the case with Palestine. Incidentally, both of the White House Spokesmen are Jewish, Helen, though of Lebanese descent is a Christian, not a Muslim, so can assume her remarks, at least, were not tainted by her religion.
    As a Christian, have been to Lebanon and seen the Palestinian refugee camps...an eye-opener, to this inequity. Best friend for years and a wonderful girlfriend for years were Jewish...you do not need to be anti-semitic to realize the gross injustice to the Palestinian people committed 62 years ago, for which so many radical Muslims still are seeking revenge.

    June 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
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