Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old "dean" of the White House press corps, announced her immediate retirement today in the face of growing outrage over her recent suggestion that Jews have no business living in the Middle East and should "go home" to "Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else." Though Thomas apologized for the remarks, she faced pointed criticism today from both the Obama administration and the White House Correspondents Association. (Watch Robert Gibbs calls Thomas' remarks "reprehensible.") In the wake of her resignation, however, some colleagues have stepped to her defense, questioning whether a storied 50-year career — Thomas began covering the White House during the Kennedy years — deserves to end under such circumstances. Here, a sampling of the commentary:
It's appropriate that Thomas should step down
• "Thomas’ remarks didn’t come out of the blue — her views have been widely known for years, says Frank Ross at Big Journalism. "And yet...she was protected by her 'trailblazing status' as a woman in the White House press corps, as if that should count for something substantive, instead of the quality of her work....."
• "She hasn't broken a news story in decades; and no one seems to actually read her work," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Yes, she's a "trailblazing media figure," but, from her point of view, stepping aside now should be preferable to "the indignities that are likely to follow in the wake of her remarks."
• Thomas, of course, "is the daughter of Lebanese immigrants," says Jeralyn Merritt at Talk Left. While it may be unrealistic "to expect impartiality from anyone with a direct interest on either side of the Middle East issue," if someone demonstrates "such strong bias that those listening take their remarks for hatred, they probably shouldn't be [a] national reporter."
Thomas should remain on the job
• "Thomas was wrong, her comments remarkably tone deaf for someone who has covered politics for decades," says Taylor Marsh at her blog. But was it necessary for her to retire? "Glenn Beck who invokes Mein Kampf when talking about Barack Obama’s presidency, and other right-wing screed provocateurs who use hate speech to make a living, remain gainfully employed."
• Losing her job seems "a little extreme when you're thinking of a 50-year career," says Michael Tomasky at The Guardian. A more "appropriate" punishment would have been "losing her seat of privilege" in the front row — especially when journalists make similar comments about the Palestinians all the time. But "I think we all know why the double-standard exists: One side has political power and cultural influence in the U.S. and the other doesn't. Oh well."
• "Public debate is poorly served by summary firings of those who spout controversial views," says Jon Chait at The New Republic. "I find [what Thomas said] morally abhorrent, but I don't think being an honest anti-Zionist should disqualify a person from working in journalism."
SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF HELEN THOMAS:
• Should Helen Thomas lose her White House gig?