Helen Thomas, Iconic White House Reporter Who Slammed Israel, Dies at 92

Scribe Retired After 2010 'Get Out of Palestine' Remark

Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas served as White House correspondent for 49 years before retiring amid a controversial comment about Israel and the Palestinians.
getty images
Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas served as White House correspondent for 49 years before retiring amid a controversial comment about Israel and the Palestinians.

Published July 20, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas, a trailblazing journalist who reported on every U.S. president from John Kennedy to Barack Obama, died on Saturday at the age of 92, The Gridiron Club and Foundation said.

Thomas, who worked the White House beat for 49 years for United Press International and Hearst newspapers, died after a long illness, Susan Hahn of the Washington journalists’ organization said in a statement.

As the senior news service correspondent at the White House, Thomas ended dozens of presidential news conferences with the familiar phrase “Thank you, Mr. President.”

She was known for her straight-to-the-point questioning of presidents and press secretaries in a manner that some considered dogged. Others, including many fellow reporters, considered her style in her later years to be too combative and agenda-driven.

President Barack Obama in a statement praised “her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account,” and noted that in her long tenure Thomas “never failed to keep presidents - myself included - on their toes.”

In the last 10 years of her career Thomas was a columnist for Hearst, a job that allowed her opinions to surface more than in her work as a hard-news reporter for UPI.

Thomas announced in June 2010 that she was retiring from Hearst, effective immediately, after comments she made about Israel and the Palestinians, including that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.

Thomas later issued a statement: “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.”

Thomas believed the Washington media had grown soft and was reluctant to challenge government, views she shared in her 2007 book “Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public.”

She was especially rough on former President George W. Bush, who in 2003 she described as the “worst president ever,” and the Iraq war, which she felt the media had abetted by not challenging Bush strongly enough on it.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.