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. Mike

    It's time to end Thomas' career, and let that be a lesson to others. She says the comments didn't reflect her heartfealt beliefs? Sorry...it was very clear that they did exactly that.

    June 6, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  2. pete

    Her brain is obviously mush. She should have retired a long time ago when she was a spry 91 year old.

    June 6, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  3. Chris

    Well I guess that's one way to end your career...............

    June 6, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  4. phoenix86

    Thank you Helen, for bringing to light what most of America has known for years; that mainstream media and the political establishment is basically anti-semetic.

    You and the liberal fringe are all racists.

    June 6, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  5. 'Nine Speakers, Inc.' you have no spine

    I don't know what the answer is to the Israel problem

    what is wrong with her saying what she thinks

    Israel IS NOT SACRED

    anyone that thinks Israel is beyond reproach and beyond comments like this reporter should kiss my behind

    it is an idea, not one that would happen, but an idea

    Nine Speakers, Inc. WAY OVER REACTED

    June 6, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  6. John Lortz

    I totally agree the Jews should get out of Palestine and return to their native countries. History has shown over and over again the Jews in Israel to be dishonest and overly aggressive. Some of their past action taken against not only their "enemies", but their friends amount to genocide. THe present state of Israel can be trusted to the same degree as Nazi Germany could be trusted. Remember the Uss Liberty, June 8, 1968.

    June 6, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  7. MJJ

    God Bless you .. you spoke the truth

    June 6, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. Dorit Rabinovitch

    I'm just a plain American graphic artist and illustrator in the Dallas area. I also happen to be Jewish. About ten years ago I drew a caricature of Ms. Thomas for an upcoming speaking event she was to hold in connection with The Dallas Morning News. As I researched for this project I learned a lot about her and it created in me great respect for her accomplishments. Too bad to find out now that she's also an anti-Semite. Her words are vile. It reminds me that there is poison lurking even in the greatest minds. I have relegated her to my pantheon of creeps whom I once admired – Mel Gibson, Marlon Brando and Mikis Theodorakis, who wrote the music for "Zorba the Greek".

    June 6, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  9. Mike

    Now we see her true colors. Clearly, this is what she thinks. Her apology was total bunk. She deserves to be kicked out of the press corp. There's no room in the White House press room for such bigotry.

    June 6, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  10. Anne

    Time for Ms. Thomas to go.

    June 6, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  11. Alex Rabinowitz

    Thomas should be censured after Fleischer and all other presidential flacks are indicted for abetting war crimes.

    June 6, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  12. Thomas J. Rice

    It's what those of us on the right side of the political spectrum have always suspected – Helen Thomas is (at the very least) a far – left duep who should not be permitted to have any seat of honor in any press room – let alone one in the White House.

    Count me (a church-going Roman Catholic) as a friend of Israel. Her statements were beyond outrageous. They were Comrade Stalin would have been hapyy to stand behind them. Is this the kind of person we want setting the tone at White House press conferences? I think not! She had no credibility with me to begin with and now maybe the mask is off for the rest of America. She should be sacked by her employer. She is a bigot – plain and simple – there is no "redos" on this one.

    June 6, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  13. sssimon

    What a sad end to a great career. People should just retire gracefully instead of self imploding like this. Maybe she had a bad day. This is what she will be remembered for now rather than the great work she has been doing since the Eisenhower administration.

    June 6, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  14. Larry From San Antonio

    It's about time somebody had the nerve to speak the truth. Just because the Jews have a Biblical claim and the Allies essentially "gave" them the land, that doesn't mean it wasn't stolen. The US has propped them up with huge taxpayer dollars for decades because the Jewish lobby is powerful and our politicians are weasels. The Jews will continue the land grab as long as the US provides the cover.

    June 6, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  15. Kane

    Funny how when you speak the truth you come under fire. She actually understands the meaning of occupation, and where did the Freedom of Speech go? Oh wait, this is Israel we are talking about, they own the Freedom of our Speech. Good job Helen, we are all behind you! Speak from your heart, it is called freedom!

    June 6, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  16. Jan coffman

    Helen Thomas should be able to voice her opinion and not have to make an apology much less be fired from her job!!! Every time someone makes a statement about anything or anyone, someone always demands an apology.
    I for one am sick of it. What ever happened to free speech?

    June 6, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    They say "out of the the mouths of babe's" – sometimes it holds true for elders too.
    As politcally incorrect as it may be, the comment is not without fact.
    Israel as a state or country did not exist in 1930, 1940 or 1945. So when the locals that lived there try and reclaim a piece of their homeland or still harbor some resentment over the "takeover" it's not a surprise.
    The middle East is ancient civilization, so history and feeling run very deep. As Americans with only a little over couple hundred years as a country we can't understand these feeling in the same way any of area's inhabitants do.

    June 6, 2010 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. Bob

    Well duh!!!! This lady has no business even working at 90. She's an old horse that needs to go out to pasture... People like her and Barbara Walters need to retire and go away!

    June 6, 2010 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  19. saki2

    Helen is speaking the truth and after many years she fully understands Israel and their occupation of Palistine..,way to go Helen!!!

    June 6, 2010 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  20. Lance Peterson

    Helen Thomas is an example of what happens when you stay in a profession too long. Certainly she has a long and storied career as a White House correspondent covering nine presidents over the years but age has perhaps robbed her of some of her faculties. While age may explain her lack of a filter in her commentary it cannot excuse it. She should have retired long ago and kept her professional legacy intact. Now she joins the list of disgraced public figures who held on too long and let their wandering minds and loose lips conclude taint our memories.

    June 6, 2010 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  21. Chris

    Totally bigoted and a poor apology as well. I can't imagine there would be any question as to whether she should have her privileges revoked if she had suggested all African-Americans go back to Africa.

    June 6, 2010 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  22. Walter

    Clearly, senility has set in. The woman is just a couple months away from 90 years old. She needs to retire. There needs to be a boycott of anything Hearst related if they don't "nudge" her out the door.

    June 6, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  23. leah

    Are we not allowed freedom of speech anymore? What ignorant people – who is casting the first stone? Can these same opinionated
    judgemental people who decided that Helen Thomas can't answer questions now because to them the answer is not what they consider the right answer-tell me–are we living in a communistic nation? Who are you to interpret the answers? Are you saying we the public are stupid and can't think for ourselves? And talking about history–where did you go to school? You must of missed a lot of classes!!! Why don't you look up your history – it'll make you smarter than the idiot you are now. As far as I know, we are still living in the land of the free, and the Constitution tells us that we do have the right of "freedom of speech". Check it out if you don't believe me.

    June 6, 2010 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  24. Richard

    Telling the fascists who occupy Palestine to go home is not anti-semetic, just not politically correct. We are blinded and refuse to acknowledge our responsibility for the murders of the native peoples of that area because a bunch of rich white people decided to give that land to a bunch of what were at the time terrorists. What are we teaching our children?

    June 6, 2010 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  25. Jason

    I think a lot more people agree with Helen than don't.

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