Helen Thomas retires
In the world of political journalism, it's the end of an era: Helen Thomas has retired just months shy of her 90th birthday.
The longtime White House journalist has covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower and broke several barriers for female journalists but stepped down from her latest role -- a columnist for Hearst Newspapers -- in the wake of controversial remarks made in late May about the need for Jews to "get the hell out of Palestine" and return to Poland and Germany.
"Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately," read a statement from Hearst Newspapers on Monday. "Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet."
Thomas said in a statement that, "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.’’
The decision to retire came as Thomas faced rebuke from nearly every corner after video of her remarks during an interview with RabbiLive.com's Rabbi David Nesenoff emerged online late last week.
"Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible," Gibbs said during the Monday briefing, adding that Thomas's remarks "do not reflect certainly most of the people here and certainly not those of the administration." Thomas did not attend Monday's briefing and journalists, perhaps sensing the closing of an era, were spotted taking pictures of Thomas' empty front row.
Over the weekend, Thomas' agency dropped her as a client and a high school that had asked Thomas to speak at its commencement ceremony revoked the invitation. Such political bigwigs as Dana Perino, Ari Fleischer, Rep. Rick Lazio, Lanny Davis and Joe Lockhart denounced Thomas' remarks, as did many Jewish organizations.
During Thomas' fifty-seven years as a correspondent for United Press International, Thomas earned a reputation as a tough questioner willing to put the feet of politicians to the fire, while simultaneously becoming a whipping boy for conservatives who objected to her liberal viewpoints and, later, for her privileged position within the White House press corps (the middle seat in the front row was -- first by protocol and then by mandate -- designated for Thomas). She became the first female officer of the National Press Club as well as the first female member of the White House Correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club. When UPI was acquired by News World Communications, Inc. in 2000, Thomas resigned from the organization and later joined Hearst Newspapers as a columnist, where she covered national affairs.