Helen Thomas retires in face of controversy

HELEN THOMAS RETIRES IN FACE OF CONTROVERSY…. Following up on this morning’s item, columnist Helen Thomas has announced her retirement, after recent remarks in which she said Israeli Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go to Poland, Germany, and elsewhere.

Ms. Thomas, a columnist for Hearst Newspapers who has frequently been critical of Israel, had apologized for the comments. She made them to a rabbi who interviewed her on videotape outside the White House during a celebration of Jewish heritage in May.

The decision to retire, effective immediately, was announced by Hearst Newspapers, which syndicates her column. Ms. Thomas will turn 90 on August 4.

This was clearly the right call, and under the circumstances, it seemed increasingly clear that the writing was on the wall. Thomas had been dropped by her speakers’ agency; upcoming appearances were being cancelled; the White House was unlikely to call on her ever again; and perhaps most importantly, the board of the White House Correspondent Association was considering whether to revoke her front-row seat. The board was not likely to deliver a response Thomas would like — in a statement, the WHCA called her comments “indefensible.”

Thomas, in other words, had no choice but to resign.

As I said earlier, Thomas has had quite a run — she’s covered 10 presidents — and deserves accolades for being a trailblazing media figure.

It’s sad, then, to see her end her historic career on such an ugly, offensive note. It’s one thing to bow out gracefully after a storied career; it’s another to quit after making anti-Semitic remarks on camera.

It’s tempting to think a story like this would have reverberations, signaling contempt for bigoted rhetoric in polite society. But I suspect Pat Buchanan and Glenn Beck are not exactly nervous about the Thomas developments, and Fred Malek will remain a powerful player.