High school graduation speech by veteran journalist Helen Thomas canceled over Israel remarks

Published June 06, 2010

| Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is criticizing controversial remarks about Israel by veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas.

On Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at his daily briefing about President Barack Obama's view on Thomas' remarks. Gibbs called them "offensive and reprehensible."

Thomas, a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, has apologized for comments captured on video by an interviewer for the website www.rabbilive.com. On the May 27 video, Thomas says Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or the U.S.

Gibbs said Thomas' remarks "do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — A high school graduation speech by veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas has been canceled because of controversial remarks she made about Israel, the school's principal said in an e-mail Sunday.

Thomas had been scheduled to speak at the June 14 graduation of Walt Whitman High School, but Principal Alan Goodwin wrote in the e-mail to students and parents that she was being replaced. The school in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md., hasn't picked a new speaker.

"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," Goodwin wrote.

Thomas, a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, issued an apology on her Web site on Friday for comments that were captured on video by an interviewer for the website www.rabbilive.com. On the video dated May 27, Thomas says Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or the U.S.

"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians," Thomas wrote on her site on Friday. "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."

The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, said Sunday that Thomas' apology didn't go far enough.

"Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history," Foxman said in a statement. "We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."

Thomas, 89, began her long career with the wire service United Press International in 1943, and started covering the White House in 1960, according to a biography posted on her website. She became a columnist for Hearst in 2000.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/06/06/high-school-graduation-speech-veteran-journalist-helen-thomas-canceled-israel/