Helen Thomas, the fiesty veteran reporter who has covered the White House since approximately the Cleveland administration, is retiring after remarks she made about Israel caused a bit of scandal.
Thomas, who will soon turn 90, is not known for holding her tongue. Last summer, she became news herself after calling the Obama administration out on press restrictions she said were “worse than Nixon.” At a White House Jewish heritage event on May 27th, Thomas made some ill-advised statements for which she has since apologized:
Thomas told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland.
“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Thomas said in a statement on her website. “They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that pace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”
Yesterday, Thomas was dropped by her agency Nine Speakers, Inc. because of the controversy. Craig Crawford, with whom Thomas had co-authored Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do, announced that he “will no longer be working with Helen on our book projects.” Thomas announced her resignation from Hearst today, effective immediately.
The White House Correspondents Association released a statement today addressing the things Thomas had said and calling her remarks “indefensible.” The complete WHCA statement, below:
Helen Thomas’ comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them. 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 trail blazer on the White House beat.
While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter.
We want to emphasize that the role of the WHCA is to represent the White House press corps in its dealings with the White House on coverage-related issues. We do not police the speech of our members or colleagues. We are not involved at all in issuing White House credentials, that is the purview of the White House itself.
But the incident does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the WH briefing room. That is an issue under the jurisdiction of this board. We are actively seeking input from our association members on this important matter, and we have scheduled a special meeting of the WHCA board on Thursday to decide on the seating issue.
Ed Chen, Bloomberg
David Jackson, USA Today
Caren Bohan, Reuters
Ed Henry, CNN
Julie Mason, DC Examiner
Don Gonyea, National Public Radio
Steve Scully, C-SPAN
Doug Mills, The New York Times