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. Felton L. White

    Whatever happened to free speech? Helen Thomas should not have had to resign her reporting post at hearst News because of her comment that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine." Those comments were made, it seems, as an off duty, private citizen and not as a Hearst employee.

    Why, then should she be penalized because of it? After all, her only publicly outraged critic that i have heard, Ari fleischer, committed an equally egregious sin by comparing Helen's comment to asking blacks to leave America. What a crock! Asking Europeans to leave America would have been the proper analogy. Blacks did not invade America.

    Ari, of course, would never, ever suggest that.

    Felton L. White.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Aaron Worthing

    Its disappointing to see such anti-semitism in these comments.

    The lady was an anti-semite. Good riddance.

    Anyone who claims that jews control the media are anti-semites.

    Anyone who thinks that every jewish man, woman and child should leave isreal is an anti-semite.

    And no, I am not Jewish, just a guy who believes in justice and hates prejudice.

    Learn the truth about what is going on over there. Rachel Corrie? She died defending a terrorist hideout. The flotilla? they would have let it through if only it stopped for inspection and there were no weapons. But instead it was organized by members of al Qaeda and was in fact hiding weapons. Jenin? Wasn't a massacre, except of terrorists.

    And in contravention of Helen's point, most of the jews in isreal are not from poland or germany. Many are from other middle eastern countries, when they were thrown out. Many were there long before WWII. And they didn't steal the land; they bought most of it, and took the rest of "core" isreal, when arabs fled the facilitate the slaughter of the jews. they bet on the wrong team and lost. As for Gaza and the west bank, in every other war in human history, nations that win land in war are allowed to keep it. but isreal is expected to give theirs up. In every war they have fought, they have concentrated on military targets while their enemies have focused on civilian targets. btw, the dirty little secret is that is why the isrealis have won even when they were outnumbered 100 to 1; because they focused their strength on diminishing the enemy's strength, rather than killing innocents.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  3. Tracy

    Glen Beck doesn't claim to be a journalist Brian.

    June 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. Andi

    What a wonderful job Helen did with here comments! She finally spoke out about the occupiers.
    And all of you, you know what? She must have kept it all these years shut. Who cares if you got fired with 89 years of work!

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  5. Roger Chillingworth

    Helen was working on borrowed time. She had actually quit from UPI in 2000 after 57 years with that organization, but since she was the dean of the White House press corps, Hearst picked her up so that they could claim the position. In generaly, though, she has really been a figurehead for many years just so she can sit in the front row at press briefings.

    The sentiments that she expressed are not foreign to many in this country. Many people blame the nation of Isreal for the last of peace in the middle east because that country does occupy land that was essentially given to them as a free gift by the U.N. – whose right to do so was questionionable. What escapes the awareness of many is that Jewish people have lived in Palestine for centuries without major problems – but they lived under other governments. The real problem here is not Jewish people – it is the country of Isreal that was created artificially without having done anything to deserve what was handed to them on a silver platter. Unfortunately the Christian religion supports the occupation of Palestine because they mistakenly think that the nation of Isreal is required for the fulfillment of their manufactured prophecies.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. Donna

    I doubt this gets posted but seems typical that an intelligent woman no matter WHAT PARTY ... still is not 'allowed" to express her opinions but let Rush or Newt or any other right winger and it is ok.... WHAT COUNTRY IS THIS?

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. R

    Long overdue.
    Controversial and opinionated is one thing; however this woman lost it decades ago.
    What did Mr. Gump's mama say? "YOU CAN'T OUTGROW CRAZY."

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. David

    It is sad to see Helen leave on such a note. On the other hand, Sam Donaldson was instructed not to ask Regan about the arms for hostage issue with Iran, but that was the first question out of his mouth. Regan turned right arond and walked out without answering one single question, and Sam took a back seat in the news business, if he's not flipping burgers.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. TD Rashad

    She's waaaaaay past retirement age anyway. 89 years old!!!!!!! I retired at 38. I couldn't imagine working for 60 to 70 years. Americas are crazy.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Connie


    I listened to your comments today on Glenn Beck and I have to tell you that I agree with you and it's about time someone addressed the elephant in the room. I understand that the comment was a bit bold and maybe could have been tapered down, but I agree with you and I think many people do.

    Sometimes we reach a breaking point when what we feel just slips out. All I can say is 'good for you'!

    Kudos from New York for stating the obvious.

    Enjoy your retirement!

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. Jeff

    She was only expressing her frustration about the whole situation. She just forgot to keep it to herself. All of us who care feel that frustration too. Sometimes things are said that should not be. What would have been more helpful is if she had said that UN Resolution 242 should be enforced. Sending Israelis back to Germany and Poland is definitely wrong. She can be forgiven for opening her mouth and apologizing for it. However the damage is done. More circus less issues.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. Shari Newton

    Helen Thomas is a horrible human being, just another example of what this country doesn't need influencing an already uninformed, and basically ignorant public

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. WilmaWonka

    It's no surprise that Ari Fleisher called for her resignation.

    Ari......now I wonder whos side he's on? Do you really think this guy could take a non-biased view of this situation?

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Az Guard

    Helen Thomas gets railroaded out of office for speech that doesn't hold a candle, in bigotry or hatefulness, to the rantings of people like Daniel Pipes. I think we can see where the real bias lies.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. Nancy8953

    Glenn Beck does not express his opinion, he illustrates via fact and reference the audacity of the Obama administration.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. DVD

    This was not about criticizing Israel. She made a blatantly anti-Semitic statement. As a reminder, it did not work out so well for the Jews in Germany and Polan.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  17. Tim

    What she said was no worse than what Palin said about more Israeli settlements in the WB. Maybe Palin should retire too.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. Dr. Bruck

    To all you self absorbed anti-semites out there- unless you are a Sioux, Cherokee, or Apache- get the hell out of the United States- YOU don't own this land- you took it by force- every inch of it. Morons.

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. Bob

    What she should have said was: Isreal is the biggest terrorist organization in the world. How dare they prevent people from getting food, medical supplies and other aid!

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. John

    Glen Beck is not a jounalist-by his own admission (on the view) he is an entertainer

    June 7, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. Keith

    Helen Thomas is entitled to speak her opinion just as much as anyone else. Just because she is a journalist doesn't mean she cannot speak her opinion. The thing is about anyone who says something you don't like you can just ignore and go somewhere else.....I don't see why she is being singled out when she is speaking the truth – the jews keep using the holocaust as an excuse for anything they do it seems....not to mention in biblical times they were nothing but a huge bully.

    June 7, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. homer

    Another example of the U.S. government and public lashing out against anything negative about the Jewish government! Why do you think the Jewish government created the Gaza incident? Because they knew the U.S. government would back them and not take a negative stance (the only country that supports them). Probably because the U.S. government has so many Jewish congressman. If the U.S. is so concerned about being politically correct, then why not condemn Israel when they do something wrong (Gaza) or stupid (assassination in Dubai)?!

    June 7, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. James

    Thank you Helen for expressing the truth, even if it is "politically incorrect" in Zionist Controlled America.

    June 7, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. in awe

    Apples and Oranges. . .

    She said the palestinians are under occupation, and the occupiers should leave the home of those occupied.

    Yet CNN has run a comparison that "if someone said all black people should go back to africa they would have been fired long ago." The comparison doesn't make as africans were kidnapped FROM their home and forced into a live of slavery.

    No one denies Israel invaded the home of the palestinians and are forcefully submitting them.

    When you step back. . . if you speak up against Israel in USA you get hammered . . . and QUICK.

    Shame on you CNN. Shame on all Americans who speak of freedom of speech.

    June 7, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Penny

    It is so sad that a trailblazing career like Helen Thomas' has to end over comments made such as the horrendous ones she spoke last week. I'm struck by the irony of the fact that in the picture above, she is sitting surrounded by some of the hundreds of thousands of young women who were beneficiaries to all the barriers that Helen Thomas broke for the length of time she was White House correspondent. Now, her comments must be resonating powerfully to all of those female journalists as a disappointment if not outright distaste. Reminds me of the comments made by "Jimmy the Greek" regarding how blacks were bred for becoming running backs in football. His arse was canned immediately by ABC at the time. It is too bad that Hearst corporation chose the easy route and let Helen Thomas "retired."

    June 7, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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