Helen Thomas Defends Comments on Israelis in Radio Interview

Former White House reporter Thomas resigned in June after controversial remarks.

ByABC News
October 12, 2010, 1:27 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2010 -- Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas, who resigned in June over comments many viewed as anti-Semitic, has taken to the airwaves to defend the remarks, saying they were "exactly what I thought."

"I hit the third rail," Thomas told Ohio radio station WMRN-AM in an interview that aired today. "You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive."

Thomas, 90, caused an uproar May 27 when she said Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Poland, Germany, America and "everywhere else."

Amid mounting pressure from her peers and a condemnation by the White House, she later resigned from her position as a columnist for Hearst News Service and member of the White House press corps, of which she had been part since the Kennedy administration.

"They distorted my remarks, which they obviously have to do for their own propaganda purposes, otherwise people might wonder why they continue to take Palestinian land," Thomas told WMRN reporter Scott Spears during the radio interview, referring to the Israelis.

Thomas also called accusations that she's anti-Semitic "baloney," saying that she hopes her legacy will be her "integrity and my honesty and my belief in good journalism."

Thomas did issue a statement of apology after her comments became public, saying, "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."

But neither Thomas' apology nor her status as an esteemed member of the White House press corps warded off calls for her resignation.

"Of course, Helen has the right, as a private citizen under the First Amendment, to speak her mind, even as an anti-Jewish bigot, but not as a member, much less privileged member with a reserved seat, in the WH press corps," former special counsel and spokesman for President Clinton Lanny Davis said in a statement at the time.