US press legend has to quit for criticising Israel invasion

Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas abruptly retired on Monday amid a storm of criticism over her reaction on Israel occupation of Palestinian lands.

US press legend has to quit for criticising Israel invasion

Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas, who has covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, abruptly retired on Monday amid a storm of criticism over her reaction on Israel occupation of Palestinian lands.

The departure of Thomas, 89, as a Hearst Newspapers columnist was announced after she was captured on video saying Israelis should get the hell out of Palestine and suggesting they go home to Germany, Poland or the United States.

Thomas, long considered the dean of the White House press corps, apologized for her statements, recorded in an impromptu interview dated May 27 and posted on a website.

"Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately," Hearst News Service reported.

The Hearst statement came shortly after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called her remarks "offensive and reprehensible."

Thomas was absent from Monday's White House briefing, where she has a reserved seat in the center of the front row.

Thomas had issued a statement over the weekend saying: "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."

Thomas became a columnist for the Hearst newspaper chain in recent years after working for decades as a White House correspondent for United Press International.

During George W. Bush's presidency, her questions to both the president and his press secretaries were almost exclusively about the war in Iraq.

A daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she sharply questioned President Barack Obama two weeks ago.

"Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are you continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don't give us this Bushism, 'If we don't go there, they'll all come here,'" she said.

Her retirement was set in motion by a website, rabbilive.com, that relaunched only last week after having previously existed to beam religious services to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rabbi David Nesenoff, an independent filmmaker from Long Island who runs the website, said he approached Thomas outside the White House after being there for Jewish Heritage Day on May 27. He said he was there with his teenage son and a friend, who were both wearing yarmulkes, and approached Thomas to talk.

He asked whether she had any comments on Israel. "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she replied.

"Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland," she continued. Asked where they should go, she answered, "They should go home."

"Where's home?" Nesenoff asked.

"Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," Thomas replied.


Agencies

Last Mod: 08 Haziran 2010, 16:49
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