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. vegasguy

    First of all, what happened to free speech from a reporter? And on top of that she wrote an apology yet Ari and Lanny want her fired? She's not an elected official nor does she hold any office, she's just a reporter. These two gentlemen are certainly no beacon of truth and seem to use fiction at every turn of events. I wonder if Ari and Lanny really understand the First Amendment. And by the way,

    Vote NO in NOvember to the party of NO.

    June 6, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. Hendrik

    What a sad end for Helen Thomas. A distinguished career tainted by an articulation of true feelings. What we truly feel sometimes just slips out. Think racism is no longer present in this country either because it isn't said? Ha!

    June 6, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  3. tha grandson

    Helen Thomas should stand up for what she believes in, hate is obviously in this old women's heart. She shouldn't back down for your ignorant comments if that is her true belief with some half hearted apology. Lets not give this women a pass because she's 80+. She's a hypocrite to the fullest, and like most "journalists" today its more about her opinion then reporting the news, and letting others decide.

    June 6, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  4. tamas mayer

    she is absolutely right!

    June 6, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. mb

    Helen Thomas "...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."

    Huh? Sharp questions? You've got to be joking. Ms. Thomas' better days are long passed and she needs to retire.

    June 6, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. markiejoe

    Helen Thomas should be smart and realize it's time for her to retire. She's had her day in the sun and neither her mind (obviously) nor her body is what it used to be.

    Time to say a graceful goodbye, Helen.

    June 6, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  7. Pat

    Oh , ...The hypocrisy and the irony of Fleisher's comments, as this is what.... "Relating to African Americans" ....most "Hardcore Republicans" would like to see, of course,.. along with your Mexicans ...Republican Frauds !..

    June 6, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. D

    Thomas later complained that young people 'swear too much' and then soiled herself

    June 6, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  9. Michael

    What is wrong with people today ? It is time for this women to leave the scene. She has had a good run. IF she does not resign (she deserves that much)...She needs to be fired.

    IF she does not go gracefully. They should move her from her "front row" White House press conference seat to the last row annnnd make sure her seat is in the farthest corner of the room. Might be fair to let her work herself up back towards the front once again. Only kidding.

    And. The WH Press Corps should name a new "Dean of the White House Press Corps" ASAP or the first thing Monday AM !!!

    June 6, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  10. Paul Ronco

    Leave her alone, tensions are high, I don't see anybody threatening to fire anyone for saying that the Palestinians should leave Gaza... or just shoot all of themselves in the head for that matter. We have a double standard here and until it is resolved no one has any right to assign special privileges or sanctions to anyone. Much less Fleischer, who once suggested that the 2003 Iraq invasion might be avoided if the Iraqis took it upon themselves to assassinate their president. If the Israelis would like to cut back on so-called antisemitism across the globe then maybe they should stop acting like South Africa did under apartheid.

    June 6, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. David

    I think this old woman is getting senile. Time to hang it up Helen.

    June 6, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  12. JDB

    Although what she said was wrong, I think she has worked well as a journalist and still should be respected. Fleischer is just upset because she asked hard questions to him while he was press secretary.

    June 6, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  13. Donald in CA

    Lanny Davis is a idiot. Why use the example of what if she had been asked if blacks should go back to africa. I think native americans indians could give some examples of who should go back to where they came from. He has a problems with blacks since he realized Hillary couldnt beat Obama and lost his mind for awhile. Helen was wrong but at almost 100 i think we can look over a few things.

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  14. Suzanne Hawley

    I think Helen had a bad day. She must have left her thinking cap in the Ladies' Powder Room at the White House. But, Ari, what's the sense of dismantling someone's entire career for 30 seconds of distasteful comments? Why is it that in the USA you have to be squeaky-clean-perfect 100% of the time? It was a grotesque mistake, however, remember what you learned in Bible school: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    Suzanne Hawley, Orange, CA

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  15. Gary

    Actually I would not necessarily say this is bigotry. Improper way of saying it, yes. The people of Israel mainly came from many other places. This whole thing began in 47 and has been bad ever since 48. Imagine the state of the area if the UN never granted that land to create Israel. It's been a constant headache and a problem for the US ever since. Israel is a country, Jewish is a religion. They are separate. The fact that a person or persons will attack someone by criticizing Israel is a common propaganda technique.

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  16. Jeff Spangler

    Political correctness seems to be trumping the First Amendment, even among its foremost practitioners in the press. The poor old woman ought to plead mental impairment and slip away quietly, or else stand her ground and say "I meant what I said, and here's why". Is it a now a crime to question what some people believe was the historical error of taking land from one soverign state and giving it to another?

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. Educated

    What if she asked if all blacks go back?

    Ah blacks are not the ones causing all the problems in the world it is jews who control the motion pictue industry, banking, governement...and even yes CNN the most UNTRUSTED news network in the world!

    America is waking up Alex Jones is your greatest voice with Ron Paul!

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  18. William

    Helen is 89 years old..... and people are offended and want her head on a platter for saying what she did? Show me an elderly person who is PC and I'll show you a rare bird indeed.

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  19. Lelia Spears

    I am surprised at the one sided coverage that CNN gave the Helen Thomas story this evening. If Ms. Thomas was not available for comment someone else with an understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should have been present. I have been a life long watcher of CNN and tonight's report appeared more like an opinion piece than true reporting.
    Helen Thomas' comments were more about the occupation of a nation state not about racism. The land that the Israelis stand on was inhabited by people when they arrived from the Holocaust, one of the most horrific events in our history. The Jewish people deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just as the Palestinian people do. A peaceful resolution is long overdue. The blacklisting of Helen Thomas will do nothing to further this end.

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  20. rajipe

    Finally somebody had the balls to call it for what it is and is considered a bigot ??
    For Christ sake, ANYBODY that has a brain and and some education KNOWS that for all these years the Jewish people have an OCCUPATION that was NEGOTIATED for them after WWII....

    June 6, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  21. steve

    Time for the old bag to retire.

    June 6, 2010 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  22. cameron

    um, africans didn't occupy the united states. they were brought here in chains. get off the cross.

    June 6, 2010 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  23. Senator

    Where did that come from...

    June 6, 2010 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Ms. Thomas, it is time to retire and enjoy your golden years.

    June 6, 2010 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  25. Blackchurch

    Uh, there's a HUGE difference between the plight of African Americans and the Israel/Palestine conflict. The former were brought to the States AGAINST THEIR WILL- hello!

    Palestine was partitioned by the UN *against the will of the Palestinian people* when the State of Israel was created, hence the last 60+ years of feuding.

    I agree (somewhat) with Ms. Thomas – and I am NOT an anti-semite. I have absolutely nothing against the Jewish religion or people (or at least, I have nothing against the Jewish religion that I don't have against every religion in existence). It's very fashionable to brand somebody an anti-Semite for criticizing Israel's politics or even their right to occupy Palestine, but that doesn't make it rational or right; it's a cop-out.

    Comparing the plight of African Americans to that of Israel/Palestine is offensive.

    Ari Fleischer is a moron.

    June 6, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12