Helen Thomas Retires After Palestine Flap

Backlash continues from controversial comments about Israel, Palestine

Comments Helen Thomas made about Israel and Palestinians that were posted online have cost her her job.

The 89-year-old veteran White House reporter announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately, according to her employer's website.

The recent interview also prompted Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., to cancel her appearance at graduation.

It was an impromptu short interview, but a few short comments kicked off a firestorm for Thomas. She was asked for her views on Israel. Her response: “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”

Thomas laughed and the interviewer asked, “Any better comments?” Thomas replied, “Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland." She then went on to suggest Israelis should move to Poland, Germany, the United States and “everywhere else.”

RabbiLive.com posted the interview online. As of this morning, it’s received more than one million hits. A number of campaigns against Thomas soon mounted. One campaign that reached success was her cancellation as Walt Whitman High School’s commencement speaker.

Alan Goodwin, principal of Whitman, e-mailed parents about his decision to cancel Thomas.


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"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," he wrote. "Graduation is the time for a cohesive and joyous celebration of our students’ achievements; other forums exist for discussions of political issues.”

Goodwin also wrote that he’s talked to Thomas’s representative and that the veteran reporter understands the situation. Thomas was considering hosting a forum next school year to discuss her views on current issues. Goodwin plans to announce the new graduation speaker for the June 14 ceremony soon.

Thomas has apologized on her website

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians," she wrote. "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.”

Thomas's original remarks drew sharp criticism from the Obama administration on Monday, according to the Associated Press.  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at his daily briefing with reporters about President Barack Obama's reaction to the remarks. Gibbs called them "offensive and reprehensible."

"She should and has apologized," Gibbs said. "Because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."

Thomas’s employer, Hearst Newspapers, offered this statement: “We deeply regret Helen Thomas’ remarks, which in no way reflect the views of Heart Newspapers or its employees.”

Politico is reporting Nine Speakers, the agency that represents Helen Thomas, has dropped her as a client.

“Ms. Thomas has had an esteemed career as a journalist, and she has been a trailblazer for women, helping others in her profession, and beyond," the company statement reads. "However, in light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East.”

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