Sanford D. Horn: Get the Helen out of the White House

Column by Sanford D. Horn
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Before the Helen Thomas apologists jump on my mere mention of the name Hitler, I am not comparing the retired anti-Semitic journalist to the Nazi dictator. However, when Michael Freedman, former managing editor for United Press International, titles his op-ed, “Remember all the good that Helen Thomas did,” (The Washington Post, June 9, 2010) I am reminded that Hitler liked and was nice to dogs.

Freedman referenced Thomas as “the Patron Saint of White House Correspondents – the person most feared by many a president on the eve of a news conference – has uttered hurtful comments about Israel.”

While Freedman is genuflecting before the altar he has constructed for Thomas, and having forgotten his history, I will parse his prior thought. Thomas, far from saintly, simply managed to outlast H.L. Mencken and other anti-Semites in her chosen profession and gained “first chair” in the White House press room. Well, like an aging violinist, her time had long since come, and she has not been making beautiful music, if she ever did.

Thomas’ comments about Israel were not “uttered,” as in demurely stated in quiet tones. Instead Thomas shouted from the rooftops her long-held beliefs about Israel and the Jewish people, and in the case of her May 27 loathsome screed, it was in direct answer to a question put forth by Rabbi David Nesenoff, who with his 17-year-old son and a friend were clad in their yarmulkes, according to Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post.

I will agree with Freedman that Thomas was “feared by many a president.” Typically, those were the Republican presidents with whom Thomas disagreed and only took to task the Democrats when they did not sway far enough to the left for her comfort. However, once the octogenarian became an editorialist for Hearst, she ceased possessing relevance in the press corps and should have been retired or at least become a back bencher.

For Thomas, her hateful comments that Israeli Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go home to Germany and Poland, which she then repeated adding the United States to locales where the rightful citizens of Israel should reside, were at least consistent with the beliefs of the Lebanese-American. Germany and Poland – ah, yes, the good ole days of concentration camps and genocide brought on by Hitler’s Holocaust of European Jewry.

Thomas wouldn’t even utter the correct geo-political name “Israel” as the land she wishes would empty of its Jewish population. Apparently Thomas would prefer the Jewish people wander the Diaspora for eternity. For all the platitudes showered upon Thomas by her apologists, knowledge of history certainly was not among them.

Freedman also incorrectly suggested that Thomas regretted her anti-Semitic vitriol. “Thomas offered a sincere and meaningful apology,” wrote Freedman, who could not be further from the truth. Thomas did not apologize for what she said. She offered a disingenuous statement that she regretted her comments. Her legacy demonstrates otherwise.

“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.” Those words are neither sincere nor meaningful when the person spouting them desires a single-peopled nation in the Middle East and in Israel specifically.

Thomas should take her own advice, as she demonstrated no respect for Israel nor Israeli citizens – after all, she called for all Israelis to leave the Jewish state, not just all Jews. Clearly her desire to rid Israel of Israelis is not demonstrative of tolerance either.

Freedman then made an outlandish comparison between Thomas’ hate-filled remarks and Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce’s missed call, for which he issued a mea culpa admitting he cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a rare baseball occurrence – a perfect game. Joyce is a 21-year MLB veteran umpire highly regarded throughout the league who made a rare, yet significant error. Thomas has a career-long record of lambasting Israel, supporters of Israel and editorializing for Palestinians even while a supposed objective reporter.

“We didn’t kill the umpire then. Let’s not destroy Ms. Thomas now,” wrote Freedman. Helen Thomas destroyed herself, Mr. Freedman.

Thomas did the right thing by retiring – only about two decades too late. Her contributions as a female journalist have been tarnished and by no means should this woman of hate be placed upon a pedestal. While the First Amendment gives Thomas the right to say and write hateful words, so long as they do not incite to riotous violence, so too does the same amendment grant those who disagree the right to applaud her long overdue exit from the public stage. As John McLaughlin would say, “bye-bye.”

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria.

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