US & Canada

US reporter Helen Thomas quits over Israel comments

Veteran US White House reporter Helen Thomas has retired after making controversial remarks about Israel.

In an interview on 27 May, she said that Israelis should get "the hell out of Palestine" and suggested they went to Germany, Poland or the US.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said her comments were "offensive and reprehensible". She has since apologised.

Thomas, 89, was the longest-serving reporter in the White House.

She has spent most of her career working for United Press International wire service, but had been working as a columnist for Hearst newspapers since 2000.

"Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately," Hearst news reported.

"Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the internet."

Thomas's remarks were made in a video interview with the website RabbiLive.com, when she was asked whether she had any "comments on Israel".

"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said.

"Remember these people are occupied and it's their land, not Germany and not Poland.

"They can go home, Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else," she added.

On Monday the White House Correspondents' Association issued a statement praising Helen Thomas's "long and distinguished career in journalism".

"Along the way, she shattered many glass ceilings, including serving as the first female president of the White House Correspondents' Association," the statement said.

"We are saddened by her recent comments, but we commend her for a trailblazing career, and we wish her the best."

Her comments also sparked criticism from the Obama administration and led to her being dropped as graduation speaker for a local high school.

In an e-mail to parents explaining the change, Alan Goodwin, principal of Walt Whitman High School in Maryland, said that "graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness".

On her website, Thomas said she regretted her comments.

"They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognise the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."

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