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Helen Thomas Retires Effective Immediately

In a press release on Hearst's website, Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old veteran White House correspondent, announced she will retire effective immediately in the wake of her comments on Israel.

Helen Thomas "Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet."

Thomas told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to Germany and Poland or the United States.

Thomas apologized for the comments, 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."
At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday condemned the comments, calling them "offensive and reprehensible."

"She should and has apologized," Gibbs said. "Obviously, those remarks do not reflect, certainly, the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."

"Helen Thomas' comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them," the WHCA said in a statement. "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."

The WHCA statement added that the incident "does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the WH briefing room."

Working for United Press International, Thomas covered every president since the end of the Eisenhower years and was known for her tough questioning. She was the first woman to be an officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Assn.

Thomas will turn 90 in August.

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