- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2010

Longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas has retired abruptly amid the fallout over her controversial statements about Israel, her employer, Hearst Newspapers, announced Monday morning.

News of Ms. Thomas’ retirement, which Hearst said is effective immediately, came shortly after the White House rebuked the veteran journalist for saying the Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” in a Web interview last week. Press secretary Robert Gibbs called the statement “offensive and reprehensible” at Monday’s briefing with reporters.

Mr. Gibbs noted that Ms. Thomas, 89, has apologized for her remarks, which she made to the website RabbiLive.com. As a result of the comments, her speaking agency has dropped her, and a suburban Maryland high school has canceled a commencement address she was slated to deliver.

Asked during a White House event celebrating the nation’s Jewish heritage if she had any comments on Israel, Ms. Thomas told the website that Israelis should “go home” to Poland, Germany and the United States. The clip, posted on YouTube, has been circulating for the past few days, drawing condemnations from across the political spectrum, as well as from journalistic colleagues.

The diminutive, outspoken Ms. Thomas was not present for Monday’s press briefing, where she occupied a prime seat in the center of the first row.

On Friday, she posted a statement on her website apologizing for the comments.

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt 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,” she wrote.

But the damage appears to have been done as renunciations continued to pour in Monday. In a statement, the White House Correspondents’ Association called the remarks “indefensible.”

“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 trailblazer on the White House beat,” the group said.

 

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