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. danny2010

    Whenever I read the news these days, the issue of Israelis and Palestinian comes up on the front page. Not long ago, it was assassination with fake passport, then the flotilla and this. Where is the voice for palestinians who are sufferring every single day. Why a former white house press sec and a lawyer for hire become so relevant in the media? Sorry, Helen, you are not a JEW. I do not see main stream media are report ing people are outraged by the comments made by Roseanne Barr. After all, she is a Jew herself.

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

    Helen needs to go back to her coffin

    June 6, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  3. Rachell

    Well there you go, can't criticize Israel, she'll be out after this. I understand what's she's saying. It would be interesting to see how tolerant of Israel's action America would be if we displaced people here to make room for a Jewish state. I think she was saying, if you want a Jewish state, fine, but you should have carved out a portion of your own land instead of a piece of the mid-east where people were already living.

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

    I forgot that blacks had started a colonialism project in America and kicked whites out of our homes and confiscated our land - oh no, that's what we did to the Indians.

    June 6, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  5. Christy in Buda Texas

    Helen Thomas's statements were based on her understanding of the long political history of the region that includes the taking of land that did not originally exist as a Jewish State. It is regretable that she chose to use the language she did, but her remarks do not make her a bigot, they make her someone with an opinion. At this point the sharks smell blood in the water and will be happy with nothing less than destroying a woman who has been the cornerstone of American White House history for the last five decades. Shame on those who will not allow her to have her own opinion... she has earned it.

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

    Unfortunately, much of what she said is true. I have nothing against Isreal but you cannot disagree with Isreal's policies without being called anti-semitic.

    June 6, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  7. JasonA

    Give it a rest, she is entitled to her opinion. We do haved freedom of speech...remember that little thing? Political correctness has gone way too far. Go Helen!

    June 6, 2010 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  8. infonomics

    Words cause pain? What happen to "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"?

    June 6, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  9. The reality is...

    Wow! Does she think that just because she is a senior she should be allowed to make such an outrageous statement in public and not have any repercussions? I won't be surprised if she gets away with it, though, because there is a movement in this country and abroad to pull support away from Israel and you can be sure that if we do this, we will be doomed. Mark these words.

    June 6, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  10. Andrea

    I agree with Helen Thomas. What right does Israel have with being in Palestine in the first place? If they want to be there so bad, too bad. They have their own country to occupy.

    Just because her comments don't reflect others' opinions, that doesn't make her into an anti-Semitic bigot. People really need to grow up.

    June 6, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  11. lana

    Good for Helen! She's always told it like it is! I'm tired of all these politically correct people and their BS. Go Helen!

    June 6, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  12. Winston Taylor

    Not saying the reporter was correct in her choice of words towards Israel, but since George Bush has not as much as given an apology for killing our young men in an unjust war, I accept her apology. This comment is about the idiot who compared blacks in a America to the Jews. Just in case he forgot, blacks were STOLEN from Africa against their will to come as SLAVES to AMERICA....

    June 6, 2010 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  13. DAVEdog

    A lifelong liberal democrat.....showing her true colors........Her apology should say" I'm sorry you heard me say that".......Why are you mad at me??.....Remember , republicans are the bad people........Can I keep my job?????

    June 6, 2010 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. Shana

    Why is it when another race is attacked that black people are automatically drawn into it? She wasn't referring to black people she was talking about the current people of Israel who are "calling themselves Jews". It isn't their land as they like to refer to it as. It basically belongs to all lthe tribes of Israel, not just one tribe. Although I don't care for Miss Thomas, she does have a point to a certain extent. How do you hold a native people prisoner in their own land. No one had the right to tell them after WWII that it was their land in the first place. It has been and will continue to be a mess. Just leave all black people out of it. We were forced to come here, the current people of Israel CHOOSE to settle there. It is a big difference when you sit down and think about it.

    AND for the record..... We have been told numerous times to go back to Africa. But it's not my home. It is the home of my ancestors.

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

    Madam Helen Thomas is a stellar woman and journalist. It is sad that people like Ari Fleischer and Lanny Davis, who obviously don't know history, get such a wide berth in the Gay stream media. The facts speak for themselves and since Ms. Thomas was right there when it happened, I will take her account of the events in question over the visionist history of FOX news, Ari, Davis or AIPAC.

    June 6, 2010 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  16. sara

    I am thinking it is time for Helen to to turn in her note pad and pen.

    June 6, 2010 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  17. John

    Time to retire dumb butt liberal moron

    June 6, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  18. PD Gupta

    Mr. Fleischer was totally ignorant and deliberately twisting facts when he made comparison of Jewish people living in Israel (Palestinian territory) with African Americans (he called them blacks!) living in the US. The later group is not causing havoc by (1) claiming the US or any of its part as their forgotten promise land; (2) African Americans never came to the US on their own and captured land or confiscated wealth of others; (3) African Americans never declared the US as a religious state of their own and so on.....Therefore, what Ms. Thomas said in the report was totally different from Mr. Fleischer's deep rooted political conviction and one-eyed prejudice with regard to Israel and its policy toward the non jewish people living in the Middle East.

    June 6, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  19. Mixed Bag

    The Jews in Israel should return to Poland and Germany? Maybe they could live at the Auschwitz, or Buchenwald sites, Helen...

    Would that suit you?

    June 6, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  20. Richard

    Israel's treatment of the Palestinians has been "outrageous, offensive and inappropriate." Yes, Helen Thomas should not have made the comment that she did. But thinking people everywhere are fed up with the fact that Israel pays lip service to Palestinian sovereignty and then bulldozes more Palestinian homes to build their settlements. The United States has bankrolled the Israeli military for years and perhaps that is where we need to start persuading them to act like citizens of the world instead of selfish imbeciles.

    June 6, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  21. Avi Shlomo

    I guess the truth hurts. She did say the truth and the zionists control every thing, henve the reprecussions. Those people came from somewhere else. Poland Germany, the USA etc. Unless grand theft is made legal and so manufactured history. Thanks Helen for telling the truth and this is froma Jew.

    June 6, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  22. Berysax

    That's funny, her thoughts seem pretty clear to me.

    June 6, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  23. JayinDC

    Stupid, bigoted woman. Fire her.

    June 6, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  24. Michael Mobile

    The analogy made between the blacks in America and the Jews in Israel is useless, if not totally offensive. Blacks were stolen from Africa and brought to America as slaves. Jews are occupying Palestinian land, citing religious texts for their right to the land, and creating an apartheid police state. The Jewish struggle is not the Black struggle. The Holocaust was disgusting, as was Slavery; this is as far as the similarities go. Being critical of Israel is not bigoted; it is just. Good for Helen Thomas.

    June 6, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  25. RobRoy

    She has much wisdom and should be listened to.

    June 6, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
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