After more than 50 years covering the White House, journalist Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring immediately from Hearst Newspapers, amid controversy over remarks she recently made about Israel.
Hearst News Service broke the news Monday, noting that Thomas' "decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet."
Since moving from reporter to columnist, Thomas has made her views on Israel and other hot-button issues known. But her recent call for Israel to "get the hell out of Palestine" and have its citizens return to Germany or Poland drew harsh rebukes from political leaders on the left and right. Despite an apology from Thomas, the controversy only grew. Thomas' speakers agency dropped her as a client and a high school canceled her upcoming appearance at graduation. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the comments were "offensive and reprehensible."
The board of the White House Correspondents Association also weighed in on Monday, calling Thomas' comments "indefensible" and "especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trailblazer on the White House beat."
Thomas has had one of the most distinguished journalism careers over the past half-century in Washington.
She started out with UPI in 1943, and began covering the White House toward the end of the Eisenhower administration. The White House was where she really made her name. Since the late 1950s, Thomas has grilled every sitting president, earning a reputation as a reporter willing to ask tough questions regardless of who's in power.
Thomas holds the distinction of being the first woman to become a National Press Club officer and first woman to become president of the White House Correspondents Association.
Given her accomplishments and unmatched tenure in the briefing room, Thomas has been regarded as the dean of the White House press corps and — until today — held the front-row center seat. Since the beginning of the controversy, it had been an open question whether the board would take away that perk from Thomas.
In its statement, the board said that it doesn't "police the speech of our members or colleagues" or issue White House credentials to reporters.
However, the board announced plans for a special meeting Thursday to decide whether an opinion columnist like Thomas should get a front-row seat in the briefing room. With Thomas retiring, the board won't have to make the uncomfortable decision of moving a legendary journalist to the back of the room, but it may still decide that it's not in the best interest of the association to have opinion writers up front.
Should Helen Thomas be removed from the White House Press Room?
92% says NO. American are sick of Zionist Control of USA