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Helen Thomas quits over anti-Israel rant

Helen Thomas and Barack Obama

In a terse statement this morning, the Hearst Corporation announced the retirement of Helen Thomas, the longtime White House reporter whose remarks that Jews should quit “occupying” Palestine and return home to Poland and Germany scorched the Internet.

The Hearst statement said, “Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.”

Included in the announcement was a duplicate of a statement Thomas released earlier: “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.”

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She is 89 and since 2000 has been a columnist for Hearst. She previously covered the White House for United Press International.

Among her remarks were that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

“Go home. Poland. Germany. And America and everywhere else,” Thomas told Rabbi David F. Nesenoff on camera at a Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House May 27.

Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Thomas “should not get a pass for saying something so terrible and offensive.”

Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz reported Thomas’ apology: “I’m very sorry for my remarks. I think I crossed the line. I made a mistake.”

WND reported Hearst heiress Victoria Hearst had demanded the corporation bearing her family’s name fire Thomas immediately.

“She has poured mud all over my family’s name,” Hearst told WND. “I’ve never heard any Hearst family member make an anti-Semitic remark, and none of them would be in agreement with Helen Thomas.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today Thomas “should and has apologized.”

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

Victoria Hearst is a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. As founder and director of Praise Him Ministries and Ridgway Christian Center in Ridgway, Colo., according to her website, Hearst “loves Israel and the Jews”:

She has been to Israel many times and helps Mayor Ron Nachman of the city of Ariel in Judea and Samaria with certain projects. She also assists the Jews of Gush Katif who lost their homes and livelihoods when they were forced out of Gaza in 2005. Victoria believes that all Christians need to support Israel and the Jews’ right to the land as God promised in the Bible.

Although Hearst does not serve in any official capacity at the Hearst Corporation, she said Thomas’s remarks are a stain on both her family name and the company.

Victoria Hearst is the youngest of five daughters of Catherine Campbell Hearst and Randolph Apperson Hearst, one of five boys of the legendary William Randolph Hearst. Starting with one newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, Hearst built a vast media empire that included newspapers, magazines, radio stations and a movie company, as well as ranches, mines and timber. The spectacular Hearst Castle, located on 80,000 acres in San Simeon, Calif., remains a popular tourist attraction.

Upon news that Thomas is retiring in the wake of her comments on Israel, Victoria Hearst is urging Hearst Corporation CEO Frank Bennack to “make a public apology to the Worldwide Jewish Community, assuring the Jewish people that the Hearst Corporation is not anti-Israel.”

San Francisco-based talk show host Michael Savage was the first major media figure to call out Thomas on her statements and dedicated an entire show on Friday to the remarks.

Thomas’ history at the White House includes numerous incidents of anti-Israel rhetoric, Fox News reported. Last week, Thomas called Israel’s raid of a flotilla headed toward the blockaded Gaza region a “deliberate massacre” and “an international crime.”

“What is the sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship where a country that deliberately kills people and boycotts – and we aid and abet the boycott?” she asked.

WND Editor and CEO Joseph Farah, a long-time Hearst newspaper executive at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner before the days of the Internet, said in a recent column about Thomas: “Can you imagine in 2010 any other media or political figure getting away with saying Jews in Israel should go back to Germany and Poland? It’s stunning. It’s breathtaking. It’s flabbergasting. This is a first-rate, raw-boned, dyed-in-the-wool Jew-hater. And she represents the Hearst Corp.”

When her remarks were revealed, Farah had called on Hearst to “get rid of Helen Thomas now!”

 “As a fellow Lebanese-American and as a real journalist, I want to denounce this detestable old wretch in no uncertain terms. I want her discredited. I want her banished from my industry. I want to see her frog-marched out of the White House and the briefing rooms,” he wrote.

Even the agency that has long represented Thomas, “Nine Speakers,” dropped her, saying, “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.”

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