Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas
has acknowledged she touched a nerve with remarks about Israel that led
to her retirement. But she says the comments were "exactly what I
thought," even though she realized soon afterward that it was the end of
"I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country
and survive," Thomas told Ohio station WMRN-AM in a sometimes emotional
35-minute interview that aired Tuesday. It was recorded a week earlier
by WMRN reporter Scott Spears at Thomas' Washington, D.C., condominium.
Thomas, 90, stepped down from her job as a columnist for Hearst News
Service in June after a rabbi and independent filmmaker videotaped her
outside the White House calling on Israelis to get "out of Palestine."
She gave up her front row seat in the White House press room, where she
had aimed often pointed questions at 10 presidents, going back to
She has kept a low profile since then.
"(It was) very hard for the first two weeks. After that, I came out
of my coma," said Thomas, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from
Rabbi David Nesenoff, who runs the website rabbilive.com, said he
approached Thomas after he'd been at the White House for Jewish Heritage
Day on May 27. 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.
"I told him exactly what I thought," she told Spears, who said during
the interview that some accounts left off her reference to America.
Thomas did not disagree.
"I was not talking about Auschwitz or anything else," she said.
"They distorted my remarks, which they obviously have to do for their
own propaganda purposes, otherwise people might wonder why they
continue to take Palestinian land," said Thomas. There was no
explanation of whom "they" referred to.
When she soon began getting calls about her remark, "I said this is the end of my job."
She issued an apology, she told the radio interviewer, because people
were upset and she thought she had hurt people. "At the same time, I
had the same feelings about Israel's aggression and brutality," Thomas
Asked whether she's anti-Semitic, she responded "Baloney!" She said
she wants to be remembered for "integrity and my honesty and my belief
in good journalism" and would like to work again.
Spears said Thomas granted him the interview because the two had
developed a friendship during previous interviews she had done with the
station in Marion, some 70 kilometres north of Columbus, Ohio.
Their discussion also touched on current politics, particularly on women.
Thomas described Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as "a hawk." ''I
thought women in politics would have more compassion, be more liberal,"
As for Sarah Palin, Thomas said she believed the former Alaska
governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate was ambitious enough
to run for president.
"That would be a tragedy, a national tragedy," she said, describing Palin as "very conservative, reactionary, unbelievable."
Asked about tea party-backed Republican Delaware Senate candidate
Christine O'Donnell, Thomas responded with one word: "Frightening."
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More from Mediaite:
Helen Thomas Cries When She Learns Of President Obama’s Comments About Her
While printed accounts of the 35-minute radio interview have focused on her inflammatory remarks, subsequent apology, and her opinions of flashpoint politicians Christine O’Donnell and Sarah Palin, they ignore a portion of the interview that packs an emotional wallop. Apparently learning of them for the first time, Helen reacts tearfully to a quote from President Obama.
Host Scott Spears informs Helen that the President called her remarks “offensive and out of line,” and a taken aback Helen asks “Through a spokesman?”
Spears responds that the President made the comment himself in a Today show interview. Here’s Helen’s gut-wrenching reaction:
Apparently, Helen was heretofore only aware of comments by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on the day of Helen’s retirement, which is where she gets the “reprehensible” reference from. Learning of the rebuke from the President himself obviously affected her deeply.
Here’s the President’s quote from that Today Show interview: