Helen Thomas on Her Resignation and Middle East
NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING
DONATE TODAY
 $121,072


  November 15, 2010

Helen Thomas on Her Resignation and Middle East


Thomas: Israel should get out of Occupied Territories; White House Correspondents Assoc. out of line
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here
   


audio

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter



TRNN is giving us real understanding of the issues and a way around the corporate news spin. - heylair
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


biography

Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920 – July 20, 2013) was an American news reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and author. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club and the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association. Her most recent book, co-authored with Craig Crawford is Listen Up, Mr President: Everything you Always Wanted Your President To Know and Do.


transcript

Helen Thomas on Her Resignation and Middle EastPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington. Last May 27 in Washington, veteran journalist and the veteran of the White House press corps Helen Thomas was leaving the White House. Somebody came over and asked her a question. It turned out he had a video camera. She answered the question. And that led to what many people think was a forced resignation from the Hearst newspaper chain, an end to her career covering the White House, one of the most renowned careers of the White House press corps. I (just for full transparency) at the time wrote a piece called "In defense of Helen Thomas". If you want to see it, it will be on our website. And now joining us to talk about what happened that day and what happened since and her views about that and the Middle East is Helen Thomas, who I don't think needs further introduction. Thanks for joining us. So, Helen, talk a bit about that day, first of all. What was happening? You were leaving the White House, and what happens?

HELEN THOMAS, COLUMNIST: I had a friend with me, and we were encountered by this rabbi. I didn't know him. He had a yarmulke and he had two—.

JAY: This is Rabbi Nesenoff, I think his name is.

THOMAS: Yes. And he had two sons with him. He said they want to be—he stopped me and said they would like to be journalists, and I said they should go for it, they'll really never regret it. And all of a sudden he says, what do you think of Israel? And he pulls out his cell phone, I thought, but I guess it was a camera. And I said they should get the hell out of Palestine. And I obviously was referring to them occupying all of the West Bank, Gaza, and all the places where they have come from nowhere to control and tyrannize the Arabs, Palestinians.

JAY: Now, there's been some debate whether you meant the occupied territories, as they're referred to now—it's mostly essentially the West Bank and Gaza—and/or did you mean Israel as defined by 1967 borders.

THOMAS: Well, if we could get them back to the '67 borders it certainly would be a triumph, but they're not about to move anywhere. They keep taking and keep bulldozing homes on the West Bank. They have Jewish-only roads. They would never tolerate that here.

JAY: So what was your frame of mind when you answered the question?

THOMAS: I was free as a spirit. I had no idea that I was going to be interviewed. At the same time, I'm very blunt. I always try to answer honestly any question. I didn't know I was being interviewed. It was a sneak stealth attack.

JAY: The debate that's taken place, or part of the—there's been various debates that took place about what happened that day and what happened to you afterwards. What is your view, in terms of the—Israel within '67 borders, Palestine in terms of West Bank and Gaza? What is your view on this?

THOMAS: My view is that you should not create another nation in somebody else's country, and the Palestinians were 85 percent in the majority, until they began the immigration for the Jews and for the Zionists because they had designated Jerusalem as their home, that God gave it to them. Well, I mean, that's—what God? Who? And so forth. Everything like that is just very debatable. Jews have been persecuted all over the world. There's no question about that. Certainly the Nazis—I mean, it's too horrifying to think of what they did and the silence in the world when it was happening. At the same time, they aren't the only ones who fought in World War II. I had—my brothers, two brothers, were there. All my relatives. Every American was involved. So it isn't a question of the Holocaust was a simple thing going on. The Russians lost 25 million people.

JAY: When the rabbi asked you, well, where should they go, you said, get the hell out. And he asked you, well, where should they go, and you said, Germany, Poland, America.

THOMAS: They immediately, in their propaganda minds, considered it Auschwitz. I didn't say that, and they know damn well I didn't say that.

JAY: Do you understand why it seemed to resonate?

THOMAS: I understand why they're always the victim, nobody else is: it helps them.

JAY: Do you understand why it sounded to some Jews who may not even be—.

THOMAS: I understand what—they want to think what they want to think. But it's not true, and they can't face that.

JAY: That being—?

THOMAS: Saying that I'm sending them to a concentration camp. I mean, come on.

JAY: In terms of what you think should be done now, what the solution is now, what would you like to see?

THOMAS: I'd like to see the occupation ended. I'd like to see the—.

JAY: And when you mean occupation, you're talking West Bank and Gaza.

THOMAS: Israeli occupation of the Arab world, all, Golan Heights, everything, Gaza. What the hell are they doing there?

JAY: And some people try to interpret what you said meaning the Jews should get out of—that there essentially shouldn't be a country or a state of Israel, the Jews should get out of the region.

THOMAS: Israel has already been recognized as a country by our country, and so you can't turn that around. It was recognized by Truman at three o'clock in the morning when the Zionists started knocking down the door and demanding. That's never been—no country's ever been recognized in that way. The debate was still going on in the UN, but that's past history. They should get out of all the occupied territories, the Israelis.

JAY: Now, one of the accusations or one of the things that is said about Israel, especially there's people like Irwin Cotler and other people, they talk that Israel is the reflection or the product of a global Jewish identity, so if you attack Israel, you're attacking Jews. What do you think of that?

THOMAS: If they want to take that mantle for all the wrong things that Israel is doing now, so be it. I think they should deny that.

JAY: No, well, I think the evidence is pretty clear that that position is not actually the view of a lot of Jews. So talk about what happened after you made the statement.

THOMAS: Well, I think that I was misinterpreted in many ways of being anti-Semitic. I'm more Semitic than any of these critics. So it made me laugh, really. What is anti-Semitic?

JAY: Well, you know that when they say anti-Semitic, they mean hatred of Jews. They don't—I know Arabs are Semites too, but the way the phrase is used, it means hatred of Jews.

THOMAS: They use it. They use it themselves. It's horrible to say. But I can count so many Jews who are my friends and who do understand I'm anti-Israeli but I'm not anti-Semitic.

JAY: Some of the people that support Israel say that you can't be anti-Israel and not be anti-Semitic. They say the two—one equates the other. If you're anti-Israel, you're—.

THOMAS: I could be anti-aggression, anti-occupation, and so forth. Is that—they want to put that on their mantel? No, surely not. I know—I cannot believe that they would assume that.

JAY: So what happened after your remarks went public? What was the next thing that happened?

THOMAS: Retirement.

JAY: So what's the story there? Why did you retire?

THOMAS: Why did I retire? Never by my own volition. Everybody's being fired for what they say these days. You can—but not if you say anything about the president of the United States. You can call him anything in the book. But you can't say anything about Israel. That automatically makes you anti-Semitic.

JAY: Well, so Fox News didn't offer you a job right away [inaudible]

THOMAS: Not for $2 million.

JAY: Yeah. This is a reference, obviously, to Juan Williams, who was fired at NPR and was immediately given a $2 million contract by Fox to protect his freedom of speech, they say. But no one rushed in to protect your freedom of speech.

THOMAS: Well, I think I had some protectors. But, you know, it's—I don't want anyone to stick their necks out and get—walk this line.

JAY: What did you make of the reaction of the White House press corps to your forced resignation?

THOMAS: Shocked. Shocked.

JAY: They issued a statement. Let me read the statement. This is an excerpt of the statement by the White House Correspondents Association. "Helen Thomas' comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them."

THOMAS: I didn't say the board wasn't—believed the same thing. And I can defend my remarks. People who are being brutalized every day—. We all should be saying the same thing.

JAY: In your experience at the White House, has the White House Correspondents Association ever issued a statement like this before?

THOMAS: No, not that I know of. I've been there a long time.

JAY: So, I mean, what has it got to do with them what a particular journalist has to say?

THOMAS: Nothing. They want to take away my awards and everything else. Who in the hell are they?

JAY: So when your employer, the Hearst chain—someone must pick up the phone and say, Helen, you've got to resign.

THOMAS: They were very nice to me. Very hard for any company to stand the kind of pressure—. You know, I think—I don't blame Hearst at all. Any company probably would have caved.

JAY: But don't you think particularly a newspaper has to be able to stand up to this kind of pressure?

THOMAS: If they have courage and if they don't mind losing a lot of money.

JAY: Well, I guess that's part of the problem with the economic model of these news organizations.

THOMAS: Especially when they're going down the drain. Poor newspapers. I love newspapers. I can't live without them.

JAY: So in terms of your feelings now about what happened to you, about what was said, what's your takeaway of this? What conclusions do you come to?

THOMAS: There's no real freedom of speech in this country if you mention Israel. You can call the president everything in the book, and nobody says anything. They're all—. But somehow this is the no-no. This is off the—you've crossed the line when you talk about Israel.

JAY: What do you make of how most of the media covers the Middle East and covers Israel?

THOMAS: Very distorted. Very. I don't think it's fair at all. But at the same time, when it is fair, like AP would be fair, a wire service, people don't get it. They don't understand. The Palestinians are dubbed as terrorists and all the Muslims are terrorists. I mean, this is so unfair. I don't understand people who would fight for civil rights in this country and anywhere in the world, but when it comes to Semitism, then you can't say anything.

JAY: Well, I know the blog I wrote, "In defense of Helen Thomas," which was on our website—it was also on Huffington Post—it got thousands and thousands of reads and thousands of comments, and the vast majority of comments were actually in defense of Helen Thomas.

THOMAS: God. That's nice to hear.

JAY: And a few days after you resigned, there was a poll taken in The Washington Post asking whether Helen Thomas should get her seat back in the White House press room, and apparently 92 percent of the people said yes, Helen should get her seat back.

THOMAS: Good for them. Thank you!

JAY: Did you ever consider fighting this?

THOMAS: No.

JAY: How come?

THOMAS: Because I think employers have the right to keep you or fire you.

JAY: Was your seat in the White House dependent on the job you had with Hearst?

THOMAS: No, not at all.

JAY: Could you have fought to keep the seat?

THOMAS: No. Never.

JAY: Why?

THOMAS: Because it doesn't belong to me.

JAY: Well, a lot of people think it did. So you still have an audience out there. Are you going to come out of retirement, perhaps? Are you going to do some writing?

THOMAS: Absolutely. I have a lot to say.

JAY: Thank you for joining us. And thank you for joining us on The Real News.

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

latest stories

Paul Jay On Our Need For Monthly Donors
Obama Calls for Investigation into Russian Hacking, Still No Evidence Made Public
Trump's Labor Pick is Millionaire CEO Who Blames Workers for Their Poverty
Baltimore City Council members Defend Resolution Condemning Trump's Bigotry
Climate Scientists Speak Out Against Trump's Plans to Cut NASA Funding
Green Party of Canada Adopts Endorsement of Sanctions Against Israel
Political Prisoner Leonard Peltier Facing Potentially Fatal Medical Emergency
New Anti-BDS Bill in Senate Would Criminalize Criticism of Israel
Why Thousands Are Staying in Standing Rock Despite Army Corps's Decision to Halt the #DAPL
The Real News of the Day - Friday, December 9
Trump Nominee for Homeland Security John Kelly Favors Draconian Immigration Policy
New Baltimore Mayor Plans Regional Approach to Problems Like Poverty and Drug Addiction
Vijay Prashad: The Battle for Aleppo is Over
Should the Electoral College Be Abolished?
Trump Picks Leading Climate Denier to Head EPA During Time of Climate Crisis
Following Oakland Fire, Baltimore Evicts Residents of DIY Arts Space
The Real News of the Day - Thursday, December 8
The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War, Day One: Philip Giraldi
Trump Taiwan Phone Call Not an Impulsive Act
There's No Issue More Burning Than Creating Our Global Climate Change Bureau
U.S. Planned to Go to War with Japan and Germany Before Pearl Harbor Attack
The Real News of the Day - Wednesday, December 7
Anti-Government Carson to Lead Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
UN Admits Fault in Haiti's Cholera Outbreak as Country Faces Prospect of Famine
The Real News of the Day - Tuesday, December 6
The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War, Day One: John Kiriakou
The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War, Day One: John Cavanaugh
Austrian Presidential Election Shows How United Front Politics Can Defeat the Far Right
Standing Rock Cautiously Optimistic Following Denial of Easement For Dakota Access Pipeline
Italian Referendum Defeat is No Victory for the Right Wing

TheRealNewsNetwork.com, RealNewsNetwork.com, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Stack Star Hosting