As a reporter, Helen Thomas is a living legend, but like so many legends the longer you live, the more likely you are to begin tarnishing that legacy. The first stain on her reputation came when she responded to a question during Jewish Heritage Month commemoration at the White House that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine.”
Thomas’ remarks were captured by a conservative website and is making the rounds of the blogosphere as proof of her anti-Semitic sentiments. From my perspective it looks like the video has been edited with a heavy hand (music and title cards added for extra effect). but Thomas still comes off terribly. She issued an apology on her website, but that sort of tepid butt-covering won’t do much to quell the blistering criticism the 89-year-old columnist for Hearst Newspapers is being blistered with.
At Right Pundits.com, Shannon Bell observed,” For Helen Thomas, Jews should “Get the hell out of Palestine” is nothing short of anti-Semitism. As Jeff Dunetz points out at Big Journalism, being anti-Israel is one thing. Being anti-Semitic is a totally different ball game. Helen Thomas is clearly playing in the latter.”
However the depth of Thomas animosity toward Israel was on display a few days earlier during an exchange with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
You watch this video and have to try to decide: Is this “Tell It Like It Is” journalism or is it “Editorializing Because I Have An Agenda?” That isn’t just demanding a straight answer. That’s an overtly partisan statement phrased as a question.
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has called for Thomas to be let go over her remarks.
“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer said in an email. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”
“She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”
I agree with Fleischer. If this had been Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck making similar remarks that Blacks or Hispanics should “go back home’ they would be boiled alive in the mainstream media for such intemperate remarks. Regardless of what side you come down on Israel’s actions against the ships running the Gaza blockade it crosses the line to turn it into a “Let’s Bash the Jews” session.
Liberals are often accused of having an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and that there is a strain of anti-Semitism within liberal thought. When one person who expresses a viewpoint that is abhorrent whether we agree with their politics shouldn’t matter. Instead, the relative quiet from liberal-leaning news publications and blogs over what Thomas said is obvious and overt.
She shouldn’t be treated her with kid gloves because of her age or her venerated place as the “First Lady of the White House Press Corps.” Thomas made her rep by asking tough questions. Her bewildering remarks have made her the target for tough questions as to whether she has a Jewish problem.
It’s time for Thomas to retire gracefully or be fired swiftly. At the very least she deserves a long suspension by Hearst Newspapers. She’s hopelessly compromised her integrity as a journalist
UPDATE: Helen Thomas announced her retirement effective immediately according to a press release from Hearst Newspaper. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday, “I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. She should and has apologized because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people in here and certainly of the administration.”