June 6th, 2010
07:54 PM ET
11 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. Fiona

    Although I agree with helen on the question of Palestine and Israeli occupation, the woman is clearly past her sell-by date and should be quietly retired. But not in Florida, where she would not be safe.

    June 6, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  2. Jac berman

    This person has shown her true colors, she is truly an idiot!

    June 6, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  3. Give me a break!

    There is no doubt that a lot of people would side with Helen Thomas – people who are not in any way *bigoted*, but rather very tired of the endless insistence that the Jews in Israel can do whatever they wish at whatever cost to the Palestinians. The ongoing battles must end!

    The world has had to tiptoe about when dealing with the Israelis for too long. The same is true of the African-Americans. The Holocaust is over – slavery is over. Re-set the game.

    In the end, bigotry is in the eye of the beholder.

    June 6, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  4. Brian

    Helen Thomas was right. They should get out of Palestine.

    June 6, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  5. William Young

    She is profoundly ignorant, bigoted and an embarrassment. Her Statemanet is not an apology to anyone, just a statement of regret that she verbalized what her bias really is.

    June 6, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  6. dina

    Boy did she screw herself. I was always thankful that there was this elder stateswoman of journalism in the front row but not any more. You never know what is lurking right uner the surface of a seemingly non bigoted, non anti semetic person.I believe she actually speaks what most people want to say.This is an anti semetic world, anti black, anti gay and anti anything that is different from the European white society. it is a sad day when this is manifected by a woman in such a visable spot. Shame on her. Apology is not enough because this is what she believes and not a slip of the tongue. She needs to go home and read some history books.Dina

    June 6, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  7. Jane Schlager

    Time to end political correctness and regain free speech. Helen gave an honest answer and honesty is always best!! All political correctness has done is give people things to whine about when they couldn't find anything important to turn their attention to.

    June 6, 2010 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |

    The face of bigoted evil. Where is Obama's statement on this? Does he think she "acted stupidly"? Or does he agree with her, as might be inferred from his many anti-Israel and pro-muslim actions to date? As usual he is completely missing in action.

    June 6, 2010 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  9. Aimee Black

    Helen was right. She was telling the truth. The Israelis should get out of Palestine. Free speech in this country. She can say what she wants.

    June 6, 2010 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  10. Nadeem

    Israel and iran Have more and more in common, both are ruled by extremist, both are pseudo democracies one because of the power of the religious council because of their say over elected leaders the other because of not allowing Arabs full democratic rights even thought they are citizens. Both ignore the nuclear non proliferation treaty. Both put religion ahead of freedom. Israel has gotten more and extremist every day. Now they shoot a 19 year old American in the head 3 times at point blank range and no one can say a peep without being blackballed.

    June 6, 2010 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. Lee Carlton

    Listen. Helen Thomas is pushing 90. To try to turn her into some evil anti-semite is a bit over the top. Strom Thurmond was able to stay in the U.S. Senate until her reached 100 years of age, and he WAS a REAL DEAL BIGOT!!! Someone needs to do the right thing here and ask Helen to find a new occupation 😉 It is so sad how all of the money-grubbers are distancing themselves and ditching Helen as she starts to have senior moments! Uh-oh, Helen is losin' it-let's all pile on and call her an anti-semite. Give me [and Helen] a break!

    June 6, 2010 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  12. Joe

    Helen, it's time to announce you're going into rehab for... (fill in the blank) and make arrangements to appear on Oprah.

    June 6, 2010 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  13. ranti

    another reason not to listen to these liberal so-called journalists! they are so biased! Yea ,she meant every word of it! now she has to eat her words to keep her integrity or lack their of!

    June 6, 2010 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  14. Helenforpres.

    what happened to freedom of speach, or doeas that not apply when it comes to Israel in the US.

    June 6, 2010 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  15. alan

    Helen Thomas is right.

    June 6, 2010 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  16. sanych

    This is yet another proof that antisemitism is the real reason for the scrutiny and unjust criticism of Israel. If Thomas were just a little bit more carefull as she always was, nobody would have detected her bias.

    June 6, 2010 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  17. Gloria

    Sorry, but Helen's comments were not the same as saying that "blacks should go back to Africa"...Black Americans did not immigrate to the America, and claim the land as theirs by birthright ("Chosen People" etc). The majority of Jews in Israel are European Jews (German, Polish, etc.) who "returned" to "claim" the so called "promised land"..They are not Semites! They are interlopers who stole the land! Black Americans, and I count myself as one, are not interlopers, they were enslaved and brought to the Americas AGAINST THEIR WILL!. The comparison is odious. Israeli Jews are not Semites, they are mostly Ashkenazim (European)..Interlopers!

    June 6, 2010 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  18. Niko the Farmer

    She's right. Why should she have to apologize?

    June 6, 2010 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  19. Mrs. Pat Knezevich

    Could someone remind me again why Israel is always defending themselves? It's the Helen Thomases of the world. Do we really need their voices? We must help with that defense swiftly and totally.-Pat

    June 6, 2010 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  20. Disgusted

    That senile old woman should have been put out to pasture long ago. Give her seat at press conferences to someone who doesn't ask fluff questions, someone without preconceived bigoted opinions

    June 6, 2010 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  21. Caron Speas

    The return of Jews to Israel has been a serious threat to international peace for 70 years. This is a good example of someone telling the truth and being villified for it. It WAS the Palistinians property. The Jews DID push them out. The Jews in Israel DID come from Europe and America. It HAS caused this endless cycle of violence. Helen Thomas' suggestion, no doubt spoken in anger, reflects this larger truth and the frustration of a world sick and tired of the Israeli-Palistinian conflict.

    Jews, in their infinite capacity for righteous indignation - and gall - will condemn her. But make no mistake, she spoke the truth.

    June 6, 2010 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  22. An American

    So someone who has spent a lifetime seeing up close the bullying by the Israeli lobby and the continuous corruption of American ideals to prop up the Israeli bully government, finally snapped and expressed, loud and clear, what all of us know to be true.

    The rabid response of the Israeli lobby proves Helen's point very clearly.


    Israel out of Gaza, the West Bank, and the High Seas.

    June 6, 2010 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  23. nunzi

    "I" am 73, but I consider Helen Thomas a bigoted OLD BAG & does not belong in the White House Press Room! She belongs in a "home" where the residents have lost all intellectual capacity. Put a Bib on her & let her drool her spiteful, vicious, venom. The Hearst Corp. should have fired her years ago!

    June 6, 2010 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  24. Justin

    Her apology misses the mark. She needs to say she was 100 percent wrong or she should be fired. Her years of service means she should get another chance to get the apology right.

    June 6, 2010 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  25. Layla

    This was hate speech. This woman with a long illustrious media career must retire.

    We cannot tolerate hate speech.

    June 6, 2010 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
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