WH press legend Thomas out after remarks on Jews
White House press corps legend Helen Thomas is out as a columnist for Hearst Newspapers in the aftermath of controversial remarks about Jews.
Thomas, who will turn 90 in August, was videotaped recently saying Jews should leave Palestine and go "home" to "Poland, Germany . . . and America, and everywhere else." She apologized last Friday, saying her remarks "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.”
But the apology failed to douse the firestorm. Over the weekend, she was forced to cancel a planned commencement address at a Montgomery County public school, Walt Whitman High.
Monday morning, the White House Correspondents Association began taking steps to remove her from a front-row seat at the daily White House briefing.
Thomas, who began covering the White House when John F. Kennedy was president and was a pioneering woman correspondent in Washington, had used that perch to torment presidential press secretaries for decades. She gained celebrity in the process and was able to move to Hearst Newspapers after effectively outliving her longtime employer, United Press International.
Hearst, in a statement released late Monday morning, said Thomas "announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately."
She retains her personal website, where she has yet to issue a further statement of her own, and it is by no means clear that readers have seen or heard the last from Thomas.
The statement by the White House Correspondents Association board of directors is after the jump.
Statement Issued By the Board of the White House Correspondents Association
June 7, 2010
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.