Helen Thomas to Resign Immediately

June 8th, 2010 by

(NewsCore) – Longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who touched off a political firestorm with her controversial remarks about Israel and the Palestinians, is retiring immediately, Hearst News Service announced Monday.

Thomas, who turns 90 on August 4, was the oldest and longest-serving member of the White House press corps and covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower. She was a fixture in the White House press room, where she had a personal seat.

Last week, she said in an on-camera interview that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else.” She made the remarks during a Jewish Heritage Month celebration event at the White House.

“Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. “She should and has apologized, because … obviously those remarks do not reflect the opinion of most of the people in here, and certainly not of the administration,” he said at the daily White House briefing.

Thomas was conspicuously absent from Monday’s briefing.

The White House Correspondents Association issued a statement Monday saying, “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.”

Rabbi David Nesenoff, who filmed the interview with Thomas last week, said Monday that he will release more of the on-camera interview. “There’s more to come,” Nesenoff said in an interview with Fox News. He did not divulge what Thomas said in the as-yet unpublished clips.

On Sunday the “Nine Speakers” speaking agency announced it would no longer represent Thomas in light of her remarks. “Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East,” the agency said in a statement.

The Walt Whitman High School in suburban Maryland also decided to cancel a planned June 14th graduation speech by Thomas, saying “graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness.”

In a written statement issued Friday, Thomas said she deeply regretted her comments and they “do not reflect” her “heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.”

Thomas’ comments have also come under fire from several former White House officials.

Lanny Davis, who was White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 1998, released a statement in which he called Thomas an “an anti-Semitic bigot.” Former President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer also condemned her remarks and called for Thomas to be fired by her employer, Hearst.

“She should lose her job over this. As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling,” he said.

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