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Posted by on Jun 6, 2010 in International, Media | 0 comments

Helen Thomas Dropped by her Speaking Agency after Controversial Comments (UPDATE III)

Veteran journalist Helen Thomas has been dumped by her speaking agency after her controversial comments about the Middle East in which she basically said that Israel’s Jews should go back where they came from (to Germany, Poland, etc.), the Huffington Post reports:

“It is with a heavy heart that Nine Speakers, Inc. announces its resignation as the agent for Helen Thomas, Dean of the White House Press Corps,” read a statement from Diane Nine, president of the agency. “Ms. Thomas has had an esteemed career as a journalist, and she has been a trailblazer for women, helping others in her profession, and beyond. However, in light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East. Nine Speakers will continue to enthusiastically represent all of our other current and future clients.”

“We no longer represent Helen for books or lectures or anything else,” Nine added in an email to the Huffington Post.

Thomas caused a stir late this week when a video was released of her declaring that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland. She has since apologized for the remarks, saying they did not properly reflect her position on the conflict of the Middle East. But the criticism has been scorching ever since. Late Friday night, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called for Thomas’ firing from Hearst news service, where she serves as a columnist.

You also have to wonder if Democrat Lanny Davis reads TMV. In my Friday post on Helen Thomas’ comments I said her comments were akin to empty-headed Americans who say to blacks “go back to Africa”or shout out “Go back to Mexico!” to Latinos who they know were born in the United States.

In Sam Stein’s HP piece, here’s what Davis says:

Former Clinton adviser and consummate political “centrist” Lanny Davis released a statement on Sunday that was even more condemning, calling Thomas, among other things, an “anti-Semitic bigot.”

“[H]er statement that Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the ‘land of Israel’ — one that began 2,600 years ago with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans,” Davis’ statement read, in part. “If she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa, what would the White House Correspondents Association’s position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?”

The HP notes that some have called for Hearst to fire Thomas (who apologized on her website for her comments) and others have said she should have her White House press corps privileges revoked. Others say she should no longer be able to sit in the front row.

No matter what is decided one thing is indisputable: Thomas ends her long career having not done her past role as a role model for women reporters justice — now ending it more as a kind of polarizing op-ed page writer applauded by some and reviled by others, or like a a biased blogger who reads and opines, rather than as a serious journalist who seeks to compile information through questioning to learn about a situation or event and then put it into perspective having reached a conclusion.

To many, on the Middle East, Thomas will be seen as someone who at the very least, has Middle East-related stories in effect pre-written and prejudged.

UPDATE: Time’s Joe Klein says Thomas should be asked to sit at the back of the press room:

Thomas is a vestigial member of the White House Correspondents Association, an organization that mostly consists of those who cover the White House on a daily basis; most columnists–people like me, for example–are not members, although a smattering of opinion-mongers, even from obscure publications, have somehow managed to get themselves credentialed over the years. So it’s not unprecedented for journalists with odious views to have access to the press room. What is unprecedented is for such a journalist to have a front-row center seat. Thomas should no longer have that privilege. The front row should be occupied by working reporters, not columnists. The WHCA should sanction Thomas by sending her back to the cheap seats. This would accurately reflect her current status as a journalist while preserving her First Amendment right to be as obnoxious as she wants.

Finally, I don’t see any reason why the President, Robert Gibbs or any other representative of the government should feel any obligation to take her questions.

UPDATE II: Now political analyst Craig Crawford has dumped Thomas, too:

I concur with the following response from my agent to Helen Thomas’ lamentable remarks about Israel, and will no longer be working with Helen on our book projects. — Craig Crawford.

Blogger John Cole doesn’t think Crawford’s response is exactly a profile in courage. He explains:

Condemning an almost ninety year old woman and severing all ties over an offensive remark takes balls! So bold! So noble! Any thoughts on Jimmy the Greek or Howard Cosell? He’s already left MSNBC citing irreconcilable differences- how long before he is at PJTV or FOX?

BTW- anyone want to count the times Crawford appeared across from Pat Buchanan on MSNBC without uttering so much as a peep?

And now she has been disinvited from being the speaker at a high school graduation in Maryland:

Journalist Helen Thomas was scheduled to be the graduation speaker at Walt Whitman High School later this month — until Sunday, when she was disinvited after comments that she made about Israel and Palestine made many in the community uncomfortable, Montgomery Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill said Sunday.

“We became aware that there are some unfortunate comments from her that are airing on YouTube,” O’Neill said. O’Neill said that especially given the large Jewish population at Whitman, the school system was not comfortable with having Thomas speak at the graduation on June 14.