WASHINGTON - Helen Thomas, the opinionated White House correspondent who used her seat in the front row of history to grill 10 presidents, lost her storied perch yesterday in a flap over calling on Israelis to get "out of Palestine."
Ms. Thomas, 89, who was a pioneer for women in journalism, abruptly retired as a columnist for Hearst News Service. The announcement by Hearst came after videotaped remarks she made to an independent filmmaker.
Ms. Thomas joined UPI in 1943 and began covering the White House for the wire service in 1960. She became the first female White House bureau chief for a wire service when UPI named her to the position in 1974. She retained her place on the front row of the White House briefing room after joining Hearst in 2000.
Rabbi David Nesenoff, a filmmaker from Long Island, asked Ms. Thomas on May 27 whether she had any comments on Israel. "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she replied.
Asked where they should go, she answered, "They should go home."
"Where's home?" Rabbi Nesenoff asked.
"Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else," Ms. Thomas replied.
Writing on her Web site yesterday, Ms. Thomas said, "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. … They do not reflect my heartfelt 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."38.89037 -77.03196
Helen Thomas, the opinionated White House correspondent who used her seat in the front row of history to grill 10 presidents, lost her storied perch Monday in a flap over calling on Israelis to get "out of Palestine."