WASHINGTON (JTA) — Helen Thomas quit her job with Hearst in the wake of mounting outrage over her assertion that Jews in Israel should "return" to Poland, Germany and the United States.
"Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately," said a statement issued Monday by the Hearst Corp. "Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet."
Thomas, 89, often referred to as the dean of the White House press corps, has been a White House correspondent since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Her place in the front row during White House press briefings has been sacrosanct for years, complete with a plaque on it bearing her name — the only such reserved seat in the room. A correspondent for United Press International since 1943, she joined Hearst about a decade ago where she became a columnist.
On May 27, Thomas was asked by Rabbi David Nesenoff, a blogger with RabbiLive.com, if she had "any comments on Israel."
"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said. Nesenoff, who was attending the first Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House, asked where Jews should go.
"Go home," Thomas said. Asked to elaborate, she said, "Poland, Germany and America, and everywhere else."
Nesenoff did not post his video to his website, RabbiLive.com, until last week. Subsequent to its release a number of Jewish groups and figures asked for Thomas’ removal, if not from Hearst as a columnist then from her front-row center perch in the White House press room.
Thomas has since apologized for the comment, but some critics said the apology was evasive.
"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians," said the apology posted on her website. "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."