Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas retires after Israel remarks

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LOS ANGELESHelen Thomas,
the legendary White House reporter who broke down barriers against
female journalists covering politics, will retire after controversial
remarks criticized by many as anti-Israel.

Hearst News Service, her latest employer, on Monday announced the immediate retirement of Thomas, who will be 90 in August.

Thomas told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland or the United States. Her comments were caught on videotape and widely distributed.

The remarks caused a furor even though she
immediately apologized. Her invitation to speak at a local graduation
was rescinded. Jewish groups called her remarks ignorant and
insensitive and said her apology did not go far enough.

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week
regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Thomas said in a
statement. “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.”

At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday condemned the comments, calling them “offensive and reprehensible.”

“She should and has apologized,” Gibbs said.
“Obviously, those remarks do not reflect, certainly, the opinion of
most of the people here and certainly not of the administration.”

Working for United Press International,
Thomas covered every president since the end of the Eisenhower years
and was known for her tough questioning. She was the first woman to be
an officer of the National Press Club and the first female member and
president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

She has written five books.

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