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. Susan

    This is not a free speech issue. This is a journalist who like others before her sasid the wrong thing when she should be neutal. She is obviously antisemetic and a fool.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. George

    she was senile...going crazy...she should have retired long ago....good that she left before she was taken in a straight jacket out of the White house press room.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. bailoutsos

    $6 BILLION a year to Israel for weapons and all America gets is grief.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Mat

    She did nothing wrong. She is right, Israel should get the hell out of Gaza and leave the Palestinians (sp?) alone. Makes me sick to my stomach that my own U.S. Government is backing the bs blockade on Gaza. Sure am glad Egypt and Iran are starting to send goods their way. It is survival mode for those involved. Netanyahu is a lying piece of trash like much like the rest of the Middle East leaders.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    it is shameful that any criticism of Israel is becoming equivalent to being anti american.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. textee

    Helen Thomas has always been (for 90 years!) a brainless, vile, America-hating, leftist fundamentalist extremist, moron and cretin. Helen Thomas, of course, shares the same leftist fundamentalist extremist ideology with 99.24% of her fellow leftist political activists/lobbyists of the White House press corps.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. Jon

    Criticism of Israeli policies is fine – and Helen Thomas did that for years. This statement was about telling Jews to get out of the region. It is EXACTLY akin to telling Blacks in America to all go back to Africa or that all Hispanics should go back to Mexico or wherever they came from. It's racist, it's bigotry, and it's uneducated. Jews have lived in Israel for thousands of years. This is a historical fact.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. jeff

    White House News Corpse

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. JohnS

    Turning those pens into plowshares, eh?

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. KB

    I can't believe anyone is upset that she's retired/fired. The comments she made are completely out of bounds. Many people have been ruined in this country for making less sensitive remarks about blacks, gays, etc. I guess hating on jews and fat people is still acceptable.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    The women tells the truth and facts and the Jewnited State's media forces her to retire..

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Jeff S.

    The issue wan't her position on the Isralei-Palestinian conflict, it was that she said all JEWS had to leave, she picked on a religion, in a country where freedon of speech and religion are give equal footing for someone to use one freedom to bash another is wrong.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Karen Rell

    It is not free speech to make hateful and racist comments. Free Speech rights in America do not give you the right to make racist comments. Perhaps a private citizen can say what they want in their home or in their living room, not as a member of a corporation or as a member of the press.

    A mature person can distinguish between hatred and free speech.

    Karen (London)

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    Evidently she had NOTHING TO LOSE when she made her comments regarding Israelites going back from whence they came.

    Aaaah, the liberating feel of RETIREMENT!

    A little too truthful for most people's tastes Ms. Thomas. It got you DISinvited from a local high school's commencement address here in MD.

    Si la vi! Bon chance!

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Brian

    Thomas' only fault here was an extremely poor choice of venue. However, her historical perspective is correct, and her opinions here own. I get tired of the frequent cries of anti-semitism. She made no comment about Jews or Israelis. She made a simple statement that the current day Israel occupies a region which has been historically Palestinian. She did not call for genocide, as one poster stated. Nor did she even malign Israelis as a group.

    It is a simple fact that most Israelis do not have ancestors from Gaza or the region. this was a country that was somewhat forced into the puzzle in 1948. Thomas merely stated this – though not in a terribly diplomatic manner. She probably needed to retire years ago. it is sad, though, that such a pioneer would have to go out on such unnecessarily negative terms.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Brenda

    This is GREAT news.

    Yes, everyone in this country has the right to free speech.

    However, as a journalist and a member of the press--your personal opinions are supposed to be kept to yourself-–and your reporting should be unbiased.

    And, as a White House correspondent--you definitely should not be able to make questionable/heated comments such as those that were made by Helen.

    June 7, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Half-Jew

    Suggesting that the Jews of Israel should go back to Germany and Poland was the more offensive part of Thomas' statement in my opinion. Doesn't anyone remember why the Jews left Germany and Poland? It was called the Holocaust. You can't blame Jews for doing whatever it takes to start and maintain their own country, after their own neighbors turned on them and the rest of the world refused to help them. It's a matter of survival.

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. K. Freeman

    Shame on you Ari Fleischer. This poor old woman was just exercising her right to freedom of speech. She is not a bigot. Way to go- pressuring an old lady in to retirement. You make me sick.

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. SocialismBad

    LONG OVERDUE!!! This senile leftist should have been dumped decades ago. A walking, talking example of the leftist, liberal bias inhabiting the "main street medie".

    GOOD RIDDANCE!!!!!!!

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. Paul

    too bad she said out loud what were all thinking anyways. It doesn't take a genius torealize that Israel to about kick off a major middle east conflict because of the crazies in Iran are just looking for a reason to form a military coalition against them and burn it to the ground

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. sam

    The jews stole the country, and have made the Pals open air prisoners.
    The Trade towers were blown up because of the Jews and how they
    stole Palestine. Let's face it, if the Jews weren't in the middle east, the trade towers would still be up. The middle east hates the US because we coddle and treat the jews as if they are so special. The Jews are the real makers of trouble here and in the middle east. The Jews don't get it.
    They stole their country from the Pals. Isralie is America's 51 state.

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. Tom from Canonsburg

    So she wasn't politically correct. This is America and she should be permitted to practice her Freedom of Speech. She's been doing speaking her mind for a long time and you know she's right. Israel and their supporters need to get a thicker skin. They expect us to tolerate their indiscretions. Is this just another case of reverse discrimination?

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. Truth

    Amazing how many islamists are posting here with fake American names like Ray, Eric or shall we call them Mohammed and Muhammed.

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. Nathan Prophet

    Too bad - she was mostly correct, but laid it out there with too much fevor and bias. Palestine was indeed occupied for centuries before the Jews were "given" most of it by the Balfor Declaration and then the United Nations. Then, with U.S. assistance, they defeated the surrounding countries and claimed even more territory and subjugated the Palestinian the way Hitler did to the Jews in WWII (except for mass extermination). The idea that Israil was "given" to the "Jews" by God is absurd. The idea that the Jews are "God's chosen people" is absurd. Both these false beliefs have caused terrible suffering a death for millions, and is still going on. I suppose retiring is the best thing for Helen to do under the circumstances.

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Jack Wilson

    Entirely too much in "handouts" to Israel. The American people are speaking up in regard to this, but the US kisses up to Israel. Why? There are too many Americans that need help before we squander our dollars to them. America needs to lay down the law to Israel or the funds stop !

    June 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
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