Sam Stein at The Huffington Post:
Longtime White House scribe Helen Thomas caused more than a few eyebrows to perk up when video surfaced on Friday of her declaring that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland.
Captured by Rabbi David Nesenoff of RabbiLive.com, the footage made the rounds on mostly conservative and neoconservative sites, with some private complaints that her comments weren’t getting wider play.
Thomas on Friday apologized in a written statement, saying she deeply regretted the comments — which were offered, ironically, during the White House’s Jewish Heritage Celebration.
But even as she was trying to walk back the remarks, calls for her firing mounted. Among the more vocal was former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who claimed to have a close relationship with Thomas when he was manning the daily briefings.
“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer said in an email. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”
“She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”
Tim Graham at Newsbusters
It must be sincere. She’s never betrayed any anti-Israel sentiment before, has she?
Helen Thomas issued the following statement today: “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.”
I’m satisfied. Who among us hasn’t innocently stumbled into a statement of support for ethnic cleansing when we didn’t really mean it? In fact, that might explain Jake Knotts’s slur on Nikki Haley. He meant to say, “I welcome followers of the Sikh faith to South Carolina,” and it came out “f***ing raghead.” Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, my friends. (Just make sure to cast it at a Jew!)
Rep. Michele Bachmann at Big Government:
Once again the liberal media has shown its true colors! The White House media dinosaur, also known as Helen Thomas has called on Jews to leave Israel and move back to Poland and Germany. This anti-Semitic sentiment has no place in our public discourse. I call upon her employer, Heart Corporation to dismiss her at once! The White House needs to revoke her press credentials immediately.
Her apology is not sufficient, considering her many previous negative sentiments against Israel. Her language is offensive, vulgar and intolerant.
John Hinderaker at Powerline:
Helen Thomas has been a White House correspondent for decades; how many decades, I can’t even guess. She is a hard-core left-winger who thinks Barack Obama is nowhere near radical enough. She is also, frankly, an idiot, and has been humored by White House press secretaries for about as long as I have been alive.
Thomas revealed her lunacy once again last week, when she confided that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go “home” to Germany and Poland. Here is the clip; as usual, Thomas gives hags a bad name[…]
The apology is insincere, of course. Like so many left-wingers, Thomas has a long history of Israel-bashing. Her astonishing historical ignorance is also par for the course on the Left.
I read a news story a year or two ago to the effect that someone was going to make a movie about Helen Thomas’s life. I don’t think it’s ever happened, thank goodness, but here is the funny part: who do you suppose was signed to play the hideous Ms. Thomas? Michelle Pfeiffer. Being a liberal means, I guess, getting your fantasies indulged forever.
UPDATE: A reader writes, “I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t manage to use the word ‘hagiography’ anywhere.” Touche.
Jason Arvak at Moderate Voice:
When Trent Lott was caught saying things that implied admiration for the racist past of Strom Thurmond, he quickly apologized and began the normal ritual of damage control. Nonetheless, critics hounded him out of office, his apologies ignored.
But now when Helen Thomas is caught saying things that imply the crudest kind of anti-Semitism, her apologies are quickly accepted by some of the same people who refused to even consider apologies from Lott. And the same people who kept pointing out that Lott had apologized now mock it from Thomas.
Why the different treatment? The obvious answer is that Helen Thomas is a heroine of the same side of the ideological divide that loathed Lott. The same pattern can be found over and over in political debates — the same statements or actions that get Republicans harshly condemned get a pass when done by Democrats. If the partisan dominance of the media and blogosphere were reversed to favor Republicans, there is no doubt that the same double standards would run in that direction as well. And what that does is bring into sharp relief the continuing role that double standards have in corrupting and debasing political and social debates.
I suggest a thought experiment. Imagine that Sarah Palin had said exactly the same thing that Helen Thomas did. Would you accept Palin’s apology? Do you think those that are accepting Thomas’ apology would accept Palin’s? Do you think those that are demanding Thomas’ head would demand Palin’s?
The answer to the first question differentiates the principled from the unprincipled. And the answers to the last two show the total lack of accountability from many of those who set themselves up as today’s opinion leaders.
Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:
Helen Thomas’s front-row presence in the White House press room is an honor bestowed by her colleagues, in recognition of her long-time service. She retired as a reporter about a decade ago–and now, at the age of 89, she writes a column for Hearst Newspapers. She is the daughter of Lebanese immigrants and her general views on the Middle East have long been known. Her specific views about Jews became a bit better known last week, when she told them to leave Israel and go back to Europe. This is odious, obviously.
Thomas is a vestigial member of the White House Correspondents Association, an organization that mostly consists of those who cover the White House on a daily basis; most columnists–people like me, for example–are not members, although a smattering of opinion-mongers, even from obscure publications, have somehow managed to get themselves credentialed over the years. So it’s not unprecedented for journalists with odious views to have access to the press room. What is unprecedented is for such a journalist to have a front-row center seat. Thomas should no longer have that privilege. The front row should be occupied by working reporters, not columnists. The WHCA should sanction Thomas by sending her back to the cheap seats. This would accurately reflect her current status as a journalist while preserving her First Amendment right to be as obnoxious as she wants.
UPDATE: Craig Crawford at CQ Politics
Patrick Gavin at Politico
UPDATE #2: Helen Thomas retires. Sam Youngman and Emily Goodin at The Hill
Jonah Goldberg at The Corner
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard
Matt Welch at Reason
UPDATE #3: Mark Kleiman
Dana Milbank in WaPo
Roger Cohen in WaPo