In the wake of her controversial comments about Israel, Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old Hearst Newspapers columnist and dean of the White House press corps, announced her retirement on Monday.
Here’s the statement from Hearst:
HELEN THOMAS ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2010 – Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately.
Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.
Thomas later issued a statement: "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."
Thomas will mark her 90th birthday on Aug. 4.
In the video interview, Thomas suggested Jews “get the hell out of Palestine" and go back "home" to Poland, Germany or America.
"Those remarks are offensive and reprehensible," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during Monday’s press briefing. "She should and has apologized. Those remarks certainly don’t reflect the opinion of folks here or the administration." Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, was not present in her usual front-row-center seat.
Gibbs’ denouncement was followed by another from the White House Correspondents Association: "Helen Thomas’ comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them. 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. While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter."
On Sunday, Thomas was dropped by Nine Speakers Inc., the agency that books her speaking engagements, and a Bethesda, Maryland high school where she was to give the commencement address.
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