Monday, 7 June 2010

Helen Thomas Israelis should get the hell out of Palestine.

June 7, 2010, 10:55 am

Helen Thomas Dropped by Her Speakers’ Agency

Update: Helen Thomas announced on Monday that she is retiring. The Caucus has details.
The longtime White House correspondent and columnist Helen Thomas was dropped by her speakers’ agency on Sunday after stating in a video clip that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

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Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images Helen Thomas was dropped by her speakers’ agency on Sunday.
 
Ms. Thomas’s comments were quickly condemned by former White House officials and the Anti-Defamation League. White House reporters said her front row seat in the White House press briefing room was unoccupied Monday morning.

On Monday morning the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Ms. Thomas’s remarks “were offensive and reprehensible.”

In the video clip, which was filmed on May 27 during a Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House, an interviewer for the Web site RabbiLive.com, Rabbi David F. Nesenoff, asked Ms. Thomas, “Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today.” She quickly remarked, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”
When the interviewer asked, “Where should they go?,” she asserted that they “go home” to Poland, Germany, the United States “and everywhere else.”


The video was posted to YouTube last week. RabbiLive says it will post a new statement about the video on Monday afternoon.

The video clip gained attention last Friday when the former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others criticized Ms. Thomas’s comments.

In a statement posted on her Web site and dated Friday, Ms. Thomas said, “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. 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.”

Sometimes called the dean of the White House press corps, Ms. Thomas, 89, transitioned from correspondent to columnist about a decade ago and has been outspoken on the subject of Middle East politics. Last week at a White House briefing she described the Israeli attack on a flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea a “deliberate massacre, an international crime,” and said the response by the United States was “pitiful.”
On Sunday, the public speaking agency for Ms. Thomas said it would no longer represent her.

“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. 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,” the agency, Nine Speakers, said in a statement published by Politico.

One upcoming speaking event, at the commencement for Walt Whitman High School in suburban Maryland, has already been scrapped. Ms. Thomas had been scheduled to speak there next week. Alan Goodwin, the high school principal, said in a letter to students and parents that “graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness.”

“I spoke to Ms. Thomas’ representative who indicated that Ms. Thomas understands the tensions generated by the situation and would welcome the opportunity to meet with students during the next school year to share her observations on contemporary affairs, rather than speak at our commencement ceremony,” Mr. Goodwin wrote.

In a statement Monday, the White House Correspondents Association distanced itself from Ms. Thomas’s remarks and said “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.” The issue will be addressed by the association later this week.

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