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!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • 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.