Menu JTA Search

Thomas says Israel comments hit ‘third rail’

(JTA) — Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas told an Ohio radio station that she knew her job would not survive her quote telling Jews to "get the hell out of Palestine."

"I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive," Thomas told reporter Scott Spears of WMRN-AM radio in Marion in an interview broadcast Tuesday.

Thomas, 90, left her job as a columnist for Hearst News Service in June after making controversial comments about Israel and Jews during an interview on the sidelines of the first Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House

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 then asked her where Jews should go.

"Go home," Thomas said. Asked to elaborate, she said, "Poland, Germany and America, and everywhere else."

Thomas, whose parents were immigrants to America from Lebanon, later apologized for her comments.

During Tuesday’s interview, Thomas said that "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." She did not explain who "they" referred to.

Thomas said she realized when she began receiving calls about her comments that she would have to leave her job.

Often referred to as the dean of the White House press corps, Thomas was a White House correspondent since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Her place in the front row during White House news briefings was sacrosanct for years, complete with a plaque on it bearing her name — the only such reserved seat in the room.

Thomas, a correspondent for United Press International since 1943, joined Hearst about a decade ago and became a columnist.
 

NEXT STORY