Longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas quits amid furor over her comments about Jews leaving Israel (video)

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Thomas was certainly a pioneer for female political reporters, and according to her website (Helenthomas.com)

Thomas served as President of the Women's National Press Club in 1959 - 60, and she was the first woman officer of the National Press Club after it opened its doors to women members for the first time in 90 years. In addition, Thomas became the first woman officer of the White House Correspondents Association in its 50 years of existence, and served as its first woman president in 1975-76. Thomas also became the first woman member of the Gridiron Club in its history, and the first woman to be elected President in 1993.

In 1968 Thomas was named the "Newspaper Woman of Washington" by the American Newspaper Woman's Club, and in 1975, she was named the "Woman of the Year" in communications by Ladies Home Journal. She has also received the Matrix Award from the Women in Communications, and the World Almanac named Helen Thomas as one of the twenty-five most influential women in America.

Her most recent book, Listen Up, Mr. President (co-written with Craig Crawford) was published last fall.

Thomas was of Lebanese background, and was a strong critic of Israel's policies - nothing new there.  But her response to the question posed to her was crude and for a reporter, absolutely irresponsible.  No doubt Hearst told her it would be better for the corporation and for Thomas if she were to voluntarily "retire", rather than have the corporation terminate her, which they would have been under heavy pressure to do.

[image-1]Thomas was an equal opportunity hard -ass, whether it was Robert Gibbs, or Dana Perino, Scott McClellan, Ari Fleischer for the Bush administration.  But it was mostly conservatives who had major issues with her over the years, and questioned why she continued to be allowed to have the dominate front row seat while working for Hearst, not exactly the biggest media company of the moment.

She had been accused of being anti-Israel prior to this recent incident (the Daily Caller writes that she" has a history of hating Jews") , but was also a hero to others who claimed that the White House Press Corps in recent vintage has at times been nothing more than well coiffed stenographers, afraid to challenge power.  Thomas, whether it was a Democratic president or a Republican one, never feared asking too challenging a question.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  Politico reports that Thomas' seat could be taken up by either Bloomberg or Fox News.

Legendary veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas has retired two months before her 90th birthday, as calls for her firing from the Hearst Newspaper chain reached a fever pitch this weekend after she was quoted as saying that Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and that Jews should return to Germany, Poland, or the US.

Thomas made those comments two weeks ago, which you can view here

Though she made those comments on May 27, it was only this weekend that the story started getting national play.  This  morning White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (who Thomas has challenged daily over the past year and a half at White House briefings) said the comments we're "offensive and reprehensible", and "do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."

Thomas was also criticized by the White House Correspondents Association, which said it was considering whether to eject her from her customary front-row seat at the White House press room.

On her website on Saturday, Thomas apologized, writing:

"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians.  They do not reflect my heart-felt 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."

It's a sad ending to a lengthy and historic career that lasted nearly 60 years and 10 presidents. Thomas joined United Press International in 1943, when she was twenty-three.   She stayed there until 2000.  Since that time she's been a columnist for the Hearst News Service. 

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