Helen Thomas and ‘crossing the line’

HELEN THOMAS AND ‘CROSSING THE LINE’…. In the unlikely event you haven’t heard about this elsewhere, Helen Thomas’ remarks on Israel recently were as offensive as they were ridiculous.

Helen Thomas has sparked a furor by declaring that Jews should abandon Israel. In a video posted last week on a site called RabbiLIVE.com, founded by a Long Island rabbi, the Hearst Newspapers columnist, who’s covered the White House seemingly forever, tells an unidentified interviewer that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

Asked where they should go, Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, says: “Go home. Poland. Germany. And America and everywhere else.”

Not surprisingly, the comments, made in May but publicized last week, were not well received. There have been a variety of calls for Hearst Newspapers to fire her; the speakers’ bureau that represents Thomas has dropped her as a client; and a commencement address she was scheduled to deliver next week at a Maryland high school has been cancelled.

Thomas last week posted an item online expressing “deep regret” for her comments, but it didn’t come close to ending the criticism. She conceded to Howard Kurtz, “I think I crossed the line.”

That seems like a reasonable conclusion to draw.

The question is what happens next, other than Thomas watching the further decline of her damaged public reputation. Hearst, at least for now, seems reluctant to fire her. Whether that changes, I suspect it’d be best if someone close to her discreetly explained to the 89-year-old columnist that it’s time to retire.

Thomas had a good run — she’s covered 10 presidents — but she hasn’t actually reported from the White House as a correspondent for at least a decade; she hasn’t broken a news story in decades; and no one seems to actually read her work. Thomas maintains an exalted place in the briefing room — she is the only columnist to have a front-row seat, with her name literally engraved on it — simply as a matter of tradition. It’s a nice gesture for a trailblazing media figure.

But once the trailblazing media figure starts making offensive anti-Semitic remarks, it’s that much more evident that Thomas needs to step aside. From her perspective, wouldn’t that be preferable to the indignities that are likely to follow in the wake of her remarks?