Helen Thomas: I Could Call Obama Anything Without Reprimand; But If I Criticize Israel, I'm Finished
Former dean of the White House press corps Helen Thomas delivered some
candid remarks Monday on CNN's Situation Room. Thomas, who last year
retired from Hearst for telling Israelis to "get the hell out of
Palestine" and go back to their former lands, railed against what she
viewed as America unequivocally protecting Israel.
On Friday the Society of Professional Journalists announced that, in light of that controversy, it would "retire" the lifetime achievement award that bears her name.
"I could call President Obama anything in the book, and no one would say anything. You touch one thing about Israel and you're finished," Thomas groused.
CNN's "Situation Room" ran a segment on the 90 year-old journalist Monday afternoon, reporting that Thomas, who currently works for the Falls Church News-Press, is pushing to regain her status as a White House correspondent.
Thomas pleaded innocence for her former remarks on Israel, saying that they were misinterpreted and that she is not anti-Semitic and did not deserve to be fired.
"A lot of the pro-Israeli people thought I was ani-Semitic, which is very wrong," Thomas complained. When asked if anti-Semitic accusations against her were hurtful she replied "Of course. All lies are hurtful."
Thomas believed that she should not have been fired for her remarks. "Hell no," she ranted. "You can never mention Israel without being immediately called anti-Semitic, lose your job, or anything else," she added.
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on January 17 at 5:10 p.m. EST, is as follows:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Do you think that you made a mistake and deserved to be fired?
HELEN THOMAS: Hell no.
O'BRIEN: Why do you think they fired you?
THOMAS: Don't touch the third rail, which is Israel. You can never mention Israel without being immediately called anti-Semitic, lose your job, or anything else.
O'BRIEN: Why do you want to keep working?
THOMAS: I love being in the press, and I love being a reporter, and I love being there. A lot of the pro-Israeli people thought I was anti-Semitic, which is very wrong.
O'BRIEN: Was that hurtful?
O'BRIEN: If it's wrong, was it hurtful?
THOMAS: Of course. All lies are hurtful.
O'BRIEN: If you had a chance to do that question for the rabbi again -
THOMAS: Hm-hmm. I'd say the same thing -
THOMAS: But I'd have to explain. I'm not talking about Auschwitz, which they definitely tried to interpret it that - I can still say I wish I had said "Why can't they stay where they are now? Because they're not being persecuted."
O'BRIEN: Do you think there's a difference between talking about Israel and Israeli government issues versus if you were to talk about blacks and Hispanics?
THOMAS: I think it's tougher against the Israelis. But I think it's very bad also - not against Hispanics, now, in Arizona, you probably could call them anything. I could call President Obama anything in the book, and no one would say anything. You touch one thing about Israel and you're finished.