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. Jennifer

    Fleischer has called it- she should be let go, but not until the press has put her comment out there front and center, just as they would anyone else who had said such an awful thing! Why should she be spared the whirlwind of public opinion? I'm so incensed by what she said, I personally will not buy or read ANY publication she is affiliated with. Anybody with me?

    June 6, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    her ancestors are from Lebanon? Helen should go home to Lebanon....NOW.

    June 6, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  3. cj

    the only thing that can be done is fire this woman how can she be someone who we want as a reporter

    June 6, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. Just us

    While it was a poor choice of words, and certainly not politically correct, perhaps we should salute Helen for making a clear statement that reflects perhaps, her frustration with the actions of the Israel government. Certainly many would agree that our one sided policy in the Middle East has cost us dearly.

    June 6, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  5. J. Jimenez

    Her true colors finally showed she and her family should set the example and go back to europe and return all she owns here to the native americans.

    June 6, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  6. Brad

    I used to hold high regards for Helen Thomas, but now her true feelings have come out and it is time for her to retire.

    June 6, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  7. Bill from GA

    I'll do her one better: Let's give half of Nevada to the Jews and turn "the land formerly known as Israel" into a religious amusement park for any and all religions, operated by the UN. Totally weapon free, except for a small contingent of UN peacekeepers.

    With nothing there to fight over, we might have peace in the Middle East. This would save countless lives and money.

    June 6, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  8. bittybaby

    It's past time to drive this old hag to the farm & put her out to pasture.

    June 6, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  9. cj

    this is the reason we have so many problems in the world people like this

    June 6, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  10. John

    Helen is right – Israel was created with land *stolen* from Palestine. No wonder no one wants to accept the Jewish state – they have no right to be there!

    June 6, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. Angelique

    Would a more appropriate analogy be that it would be like if an American Indian tribe took back their ancestral land and someone said they should go back to the reservation? Or am I misunderstanding the history?

    June 6, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  12. My thoughts

    The United Nations created Israel, in a land that was already densely populated. Also, in a land that had very different religions and culture. This mess was created, when it could have been avoided all together by creating a homeland for the displaced and persecuted, in unihabited parts of the Amazon, or almost any other place. The do-gooders created this mess and it will never be resolved. Remember the Bible says that the origins of the end of the World will originate in that region of the world.
    In short, Helen Thomas only said what many others have thought, and I don't think she is an anti-semite.

    June 6, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. billy

    You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

    June 6, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  14. Brons

    Time for the nursing home Helen...your brain has gone "night-night"!!

    June 6, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  15. Karl in Charleston,SC

    People say strange things when they get old....

    June 6, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  16. Tom

    Weeks late to the story of Helen Thomas telling Israelis to go home to Auschwitz and Krakow, CNN asserts that Helen Thomas is a "legendary" White House correspondent!

    Helen Thomas is only "legendary" to her like-minded virulent, militant, America-hating, fundamentalist leftist extremists.

    Normal people (i.e., the pro-America community) see Helen Thomas for what she is, to wit: a vile, brainless, America-hating, leftist cretin and moron.

    June 6, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  17. 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 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  18. Lynn

    I don't recall Helen ever saying that the Israelis should leave Israel, she said they should leave Palestine – and they SHOULD. The genocide that is being perpetrated and supported there by the U.S. and other nations, is despicable. We can stop Hamas and other terrorists while STILL feeding and caring for innocent civilians. Stop punishing the innocent and slamming Helen for speaking her truth.

    June 6, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  19. Justin

    I agree with Helen. The Palestinians were there first, and are now forced into a small, 3rd world-like area in the Gaza. It seems like no one can criticize Israel without being slammed down.

    June 6, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  20. walleye

    At her age, senility has definitely set in. Time to retire.

    June 6, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  21. Tom Walton

    The critics of Ms. Thomas have it wrong. What she said was not a religious comment. It is more like saying that the people who stole your neighbor's house should get out of it. She never mentioned the Jewish religion and Israel is not synonymous with Judaism or Jews as a group. The people occupying Philistine are thugs, murders and thieves. The fact that the country is a theocracy is not the issue. The issue is that the "country" was established by the use of terrorism and violence against the existing inhabitants. This if the same method used by Germany to expand its borders during WWII. The people in Gaza are being treated in a manner that is a close parallel to the way the German Government treated the people trapped in the Warsaw ghetto 65 years ago. The only difference is that this time we know that it is happening. We are watching it happen on television. Shame on us and we are supporting it. Kudos to Helen Thomas for exercising her right of free speech. Shame on anyone who would punish her for doing so. The Anti-Defamation League is just an arm of the gang of thugs in Israel who seeks to intimidate anyone who sees the injustice being done and says something about it.

    June 6, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. AJ

    Who knew that Helen Thomas is an anti-semite? She should be fired from her job and banned from the White House Press Room. If she had made such remarks against African Americans she would already be out.

    June 6, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. Rbnh

    What was said can't be unheard

    June 6, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  24. jacobust

    I don't hear anything resembling a condemnation coming from the White House. Of course, that isn't surprising at this point.

    June 6, 2010 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  25. wow

    I think what she stated is what many more in the US are beginning to think as well. We are part of the problem. I once wanted to go visit but as I got older and we could see the news more instantly I realized the irealis are partly to blame for the violence. They prove they are willing to break any intl law and rule. They hunted down nazis and kidnapped them, they did the same thing in Dubai recently and now the attacks in intl waters? No one is safe if they feel they want you.This to me is no better than what the Nazis did in WWII.
    They and the Pal are racist in the way the live. Why is that the US and UK and Aus have a very diverse populaton and we get along for the most part. Not lobbing misslies and grenades at each other from say LA to NY?

    June 6, 2010 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
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