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. Sande

    Helen Thomas spoke the truth and said what all the other reporters would like to say but don't have the balls to say it for fear of losing their jobs, agents etc. The Jews should go back to Germany, and Poland, and stop causing problems in Gaza, which means problems for the U.S. Way to go Thomas. Don't feel badly for speaking the truth!

    June 6, 2010 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. Karen Christopher

    There is a big difference between anti-semitism and anti-zionism; also, Helen Thomas is an institution in America and should not be lightly relugated to the trash,

    June 6, 2010 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  3. Phineas J Whoopie

    Republicans should love this comment; it accords with their rhetoric on immigration in America.

    June 6, 2010 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  4. Carlos Fernandes

    She should go. it is one of the most racist things i have ever heard from a whte house correspondent or journalist for that matter. She showed her true feelings and feelings that do not belong in our mainstream journalism. Bigoted through to the core.

    June 6, 2010 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  5. Maddie

    So much for freedom of the Press.

    June 6, 2010 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  6. Mrs. Pat Knezevich

    Anything and everything penned or verbalized by Helen Thomas should be viewed as biased and flawed. As Americans and for all people of the world who are praying for peace in the Middle East, who can stomach any 'heartfelt' opinions from an anti-semite. Send her back 'home' to deliver that news.- Pat

    June 6, 2010 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  7. mark

    May I suggest assisted living? Your time is up.

    June 6, 2010 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  8. proud conservative

    Time to say goodnight Helen.

    June 6, 2010 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  9. Chad

    Helen Thomas clearly went too far, and no matter what your feelings about Israel or the Middle East peace issues, her comments are at best ignorant and at worst bigoted and inflammatory. She certainly has the benefits of free speech, but unfortunately, I do not think she warrants a position in the briefing room, nor does she deserve to be the non-biased voice of the Hearst Corporation

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  10. Phillip

    Let's see, if she's liberal let's give her a pass.

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  11. Helen Speaks the truth

    Helen said what many Americans think Israel illegally building settlements - in doing so thaey are ther match stick to a Mis east war.

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  12. mh

    she is a waste of space. she needs to retire and go hide under the rock she crawled out from under.

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  13. Alex H,

    Israel is not immune to criticism but the lady was asked her personal opinion.Ari Flisher should just shut it and down down rhetoric.
    give the palestinians back the land Israel is occupying and have the settlers return to part of europe they immigratred to as occupiers.

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  14. Mike

    Her statement is an accurate reflection on what is happening in Palestine. After World War One only about 1/6 of the population of present day Israel were Jews. After the holocaust it was apparent that Jews living in Europe were not welcome. Christian Europe has always been anti-Semitic from the times of the Inquisition and the Crusades. But no one can explain why Europe was allowed to rid it self of its Jewish problem by taking Palestinian land. The Ashkenazim should have been given land from Germany not from the Arabs. This is what she is saying. If this had been done the world would be a lot safer and thousands of innocents would still be alive.

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  15. Clay

    She should be fired and banned form the White house. She is nothing but a nasty old hag.

    June 6, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  16. Steve851

    She's been making an ass of herself for years. It's just that she has run into a powerful opponent this time

    June 6, 2010 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  17. MJL

    It is time for Helen to retire. Pure and simple.

    June 6, 2010 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  18. John Lafayette,In

    She Helen Thomas should Fired. Israel are home and they sure stay,but they should make peace with the Palestine people and soon.

    June 6, 2010 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  19. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    "Helen Thomas’s statement of regret does not go far enough. Her remarks were outrageous, offensive and inappropriate,"

    No, they're dead-on accurate, and she has nothing to apologise for. Israel is occupying stolen land, land stolen from the Palestinians in 1948, and the people who presently occupy that land really do need to go back where they came from.

    And I strongly suspect that Ms Thomas' grasp of history is superior to that of anyone from the ADL–the ADL's version is basically propaganda "justified" by religious nonsense.

    June 6, 2010 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  20. Quinntwin

    Sending Africans back to Africa is not the same thing; and the reference to it is a shame. Our ancestors brought those poor people here against thier will.

    I don't think the Palestinian's brought the Isrealites to Palestine as slaves; or am I missing something?

    I don't see the remark as anti-Semetic, either. I see it as her honest view and the same view held by millions of other people, too.

    June 6, 2010 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  21. Caral from SoCal

    Helen Thomas is 89 years old. All these years she has been a respected – albeit very liberal – member of the press corps. Perhaps age has caught up with her a bit, and her usual discretion has slipped? Whatever the cause, it is clear that this was a VERY candid and unfortunately heartfelt comment. Why would an apology help here? She clearly meant exactly what she said – with all the horrific connotations of racial cleansing that go with it. Too bad she did not retire last year.

    June 6, 2010 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  22. Heidi Caruso

    In some elderly people, the stop-gap between what they think and what they say is blurred. It happened to David Brinkley at the Democratic Convention, when President Clinton was nominated for his second term. And, appropriately enough, it was the last time he was seen on the air.
    Helen Thomas should be relieved of her duties in the news media. She has crossed the line.

    June 6, 2010 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  23. thaisamai

    I find it refreshing to hear a real honest take on anything these days. . .and not the modified, corrected, lets-not-rock the boat version. She spoke her mind and though a bit too harsh perhaps, what she said has a LOT of truth. Go Helen!!

    June 6, 2010 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  24. 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?-Pat

    June 6, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  25. dave

    She needs to go away!

    June 6, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
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