June 7th, 2010
12:27 PM ET
13 years ago

Helen Thomas has retired, Hearst announces


Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas, 89, (pictured, center) was considered the dean of the White House press corps and held a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) – Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas has retired effective immediately, Hearst Corporation said Monday.

The media conglomerate had employed Thomas, age 89, as a syndicated columnist for its newspaper chain.

Thomas, who was considered the dean of the White House press corps, had come under fire since late last week when a YouTube video surfaced showing her 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.”

In a posting on her website last Friday, Thomas apologized for her remarks. “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,” she wrote.

But the apology was not enough to silence critics who began a rising chorus of calls for Thomas either to be terminated or suspended by Hearst.

Related video: Ari Fleischer slams Thomas

Just prior to Hearst’s announcement, the board of the White House Correspondents Association released a statement condemning Thomas’ remarks. The group of White House reporters, which includes CNN’s Ed Henry, called Thomas’ remarks “indefensible.”

The reporters’ statement said, “Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trailblazer on the White House beat.”

And during a Monday morning briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also criticized Thomas, saying, "Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. I think she should and has apologized because obviously those remarks do not reflect the - certainly the opinion of, I assume, most of the people in here and certainly not of the administration."

Updated: 12:59 p.m.

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soundoff (323 Responses)
  1. JAY

    I totally agree with Helen. If your an African American go back to Africa.
    If your a Mexican American go back to Mexico.
    If you are a Jew understand your heritage. God gave them the land
    over 2000 years ago. The conflict indicate the Jews are unwilling
    to accept a change of God's will. What Helen says is true yets the Jews are unwilling to change. That little piece of dirt was never meant to take all those people. What is wrong with Polan, Germany, and the countless other countries they have come from. The Muslim problem is all together different. We REALLY need to get every Muslim our of the United States. Muslim history down through the centuries has been nothing but war and killing. Islam should be wiped off the map.
    However, all these masses of people could not be moved out of the U.S. plus would the other countries have them. I have lived on this planet for 67 years and I can not accept what is being run down our tthroat in all this. Racial profiling should be in place. If you are a true American you should not fear such a thing. God Bless America.

    June 7, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. laf

    when did Helen lose her freedom of speach? has she no right to express her opinion in this country?

    June 7, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. Chris

    Whether you agree with her comments or not the fact of the matter is she is a journalist. She should be reporting the news instead of giving her personal opinion. Whatever happened to those days when journalists were pure?

    June 7, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. Susan

    She had the right to her opinion, but there is a time and a place for everything. Maybe it shouldn't have been spoken after a Jewish Hertiage lunch. Her comments, while I might agree, were as welcome as the Westboro nutballs who protest at soldier's funerals.

    June 7, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. Kate in San Diego

    Good bye Helen – It is too bad that this wil tarnish your formidable reputation. YOu have been a role model to all of us who are at times afraid to speak up. It was an ill-advised remark, but everyone who does not approve all everything Israel does is not necessarily an anti-Semite. No nation is perfect, even Israel.

    June 7, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. WilmaWonka

    Stacie and others –

    You can not equate Jews in Gaza with blacks in America.

    This little bit of land was given to the jewish people from people who had no right to give it. Helen was just pointing out that they had a homeland and if they return to their home land, the Palestinians can have the land back that was stolen from them.

    Blacks were brought here unwillingly and stayed. Why should they go back to their homelands (Africa, Jamaica, etc) if they don't want too?

    Besides, Helen's comments weren't about enslaved blacks and no one can suggest that she would make that argument.

    I didnt interpret her comments as outrageous. It's how she see's the situation. It doesn't make her right or wrong. She isn't the president. She isn't a government official. She's a citizen with free speech rights.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. Big Q

    While I don't agree with the tone of her answers there is some truth to it. The Holocaust took a lot out of the people that were victimized, and their families. It was quite apparent that returning these people to "the scene of the crime" would have been way too traumatic and tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, I think the decision to take land away from Palestine was made too quickly based more on emotion than on logic. If the U.S. itself was not anti-semetic at its base (or racist in general), the right thing to do would have been to welcome all of these survivors into the U.S. Even if it was inevitable that a new country needed to be established, we should have created it here since we were the main backing for the creation of Israel. We should look no further that this country to find blame for the mess in the Middle East.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Michael H

    What a world we live in. When you speak out against Israel, they play the anti-semetic card. What a joke! SPEAKING OUT AGAINST A TERRORIST REGIME SUCH AS ISRAEL IS NOT BEING ANTI-SEMITIC!!!

    Do you have any idea how much of our tax money is given to Israel.....Billions!!!!

    How about using that money to bail out some of the people who lost their homes in the USA, instead of giving it to the "terrorist state" of Israel so they can drop bombs on innocent women and children!!!!

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Edward

    Thank God she's gone! Most liberals and socialists will ignorantly praise her. But now she can go back to Lebanon and fight along side her terrorist friends with Hezbollah. Liberals are always the ones who point the racist finger at everyone except themselves, the true racists. People like her and that other antisemitic "journalists" like Ariana Huffington and the LA Times, the NY Times, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS and quite a few at CNN are the reason the media is so slanted and obtuse. I will say CNN has gotten better over the years, and continues to do so. But you have a little way to go. Helen Thomas is a racist and should NEVER be heard from AGAIN!

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. Matt

    It is sad about our democracy and freedom of speech. But I am not surprised since Israel lobbyists are so strong in our country, which they eliminate anybody talk against Israel,even US Jewish person.

    Israel can do any thing, violates every fundamentals, human Rights, UN and Geneva regulation and etc. But if anybody talk against it, it has to be punished. I am really tired of this situation and Israel Lobbyist in our country. It is time for a change.

    But, I always differentiate Jewish people and Israel government. You can talk against Israel policy, but that does not mean you are against Jewish people. I am afraid, every time anybody express their unhappiness with Israel, they claim anti Jewish,..., which is not a case.

    I had a great respect to Helen, she was one of few reporters was able to talk freely about any subject matter. She has an example for many reporters.

    It is very sad to see she goes this way. It is sad.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. Dana

    I was surprised at how hard it was to find out what she actually said, which was in essence that Jews should all leave Palsetine and go back to where they came from. When asked where was that, she replied Germany, Poland, the United States. I found her response not that of thoughtful political commentary or even an expression of disapproval of Israel's policies, but somewhat sadly pathetic.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. shamir

    she should not have apologized . she is right. isrealis should make peace with the indigenous peoples of the land or go back to Europe. What happened to free speech? The jewish organization FLAME have repeatedly mentioned the deportation of the indigenous palestinians out of all the so called promised lands . ARI FLEISHER NEVER COMPLAINED. She " retired". we know what happened.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. LB

    OK. But exuse me......So when is Fox going to "retire" Beck for his daily "freedom of speech"? Or Limbaugh, or Hannity, or O'Reilly, or Levine, or....FoxNews altogether.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. PRO Isreal

    Glad that crazy is gone.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. Mat

    Just another note upon reading some responses. I think people cheer for whoever says what they think is right. We live in America and have the most opportunities of anywhere in the world and we fail at education, leaving the control of the county in the voters (or should I say morons) hands. This is not bashing on the Current Admin because no one alive could pull this decrepit country out of the state the last jerkoff for 8 years put us in.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    First, she broke the first rule, she is to report the news, not give her opinions.
    Second, there is probably much more to this than her "retiring" because of her comment. The Hearst Corp has probably wanted to get rid of her for a long time but couldn't due to getting sued for discrimination, due to age.
    As soon as she made her comments, people associated with her dropped her like a hot potato. She didn't seem to have much backing or anyone running to her side to defend her. Maybe she was very hard to work. Maybe people who knew her was hoping she would retire because she wasn't cutting it anymore. You know, like sports people who do not know when to retire.
    You are not as sharp at 89 as you should be and hold down the job she had.
    This was probably the best thing that could happen to all involved.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Christy

    She is no anti-Semite. Helen Thomas has shown by her many years of speaking truth to power (she was the ONLY reporter to question the lies that led us to war) that she is a woman of integrity and guts. That she spoke up, in anger and emotion, over the current heavy handed, right wing government of Israel (and many Israelis agree; see the massive protests in Israel against this), and the deaths of 19 more people, in an imprudent way is understandable; that she immediately apologized was admirable, and that she has now retired over it speaks volumes about her quality. The vituperative garbage I see in many posts here is sickening. BTW, not Jewish, but am married to one, lest anyone try to equate my disapproval of actions of the govt of Israel to anti-Semitism. Just like I could be disgusted by the actions of my own govt, under George W Bush, and still be a MOST patriotic American. If you can't understand that, go back to civics class.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. KB

    Hey @Brian... there's a difference between "reporter or journalist" and "columnist or commentator". Columnists and commentators are paid to give OPINION. Reporters/Journalists are paid to report the news.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Fred

    Finally the people are holding the despicable media accountable??

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Gary

    While Ms. Thomas' remarks about going home reflect a lack of understanding the history of Israel, she is correct that the Israelis need to get out of Palestine. By annexing lands through settlements taken in the 1967 war, they have forfeited the moral high ground. Until Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders there can be no hope for peace but their arrogance as a nation prevents them from seeing reason. And will some one explain to me how criticizing Israel the nation is being anti-semitic? If i criticize Iran does that mean I'm anti-muslim? People need to get a grip....

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Geo

    If Helen Thomas would have said that all blacks should go back to Africa, she would have been fired yesterday!

    She should have been fired yesterday for saying all Jews should be go back to Poland, etc.

    I believe the reason she was not fired is because she is a liberal working for a Liberal network.

    She might be missed by her children.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Mustafa Syed

    Ari Fleischer – hmmmmm interesting ..HE IS THE BIGGEST LIAR – Rememeber BUSH DAYS and his interviews. is Ari Fleischer a jew? i suppose thats a interesting question!

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Ed Becker

    Israel should stop stealing land. It's that simple. They should stay within the borders given them in 1948. Helen was correct and has more courage than other journalists. I think we still have free speech in this country. Do we?

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Michael Daily

    It's understandable that Hearst fired her – her views are certainly extreme. But she isn't a racist – her views are about Israel as a political entity, not the Jews as a race.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. VetFor Obama

    I have to be careful what I say, as to not come off as being anti-semetic, which I am not. With that being said, America has become a nation of absolute weaklings. I know that we are not supposed to criticize specific groups of people, God forbid. They can criticize all day long and we have to put up with it, but we can't criticize actions taken by them?? For God's sake, people need to grow up and accept that they aren't perfect, Jewish or not. I agree that Helen's comments could and should have been worded differently, but give it a rest. Oh, and Norris...What would we Liberals do if not for the ability to make things up? What would we do without your wonderful journalists and reporters like Glen Beck? Thank you for all of them.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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