8 Jun 2010

Veteran US journalist retires after 'offensive' remarks

6:11 pm on 8 June 2010

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

In an interview on the website RabbiLive.com on 27 May, the 89-year-old said Israelis should get "the hell out of Palestine" and suggested they move to Germany, Poland or the United States.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has described the comments - for which Ms Thomas subsequently apologised - as offensive and reprehensible.

Ms Thomas, the longest-serving reporter in the White House, spent most of her career working for United Press International (UPI) wire service, which she joined in 1943.

In recent years she has been working as a columnist for Hearst newspapers since 2000.

The BBC reports that she has been a feature of life at the White House since the early days of the Kennedy administration.

Widely circulated on internet

Ms Thomas's controversial remarks, made in a video interview that was widely circulated on the internet, came 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 [Palestinians] are occupied and it's their land, not Germany and not Poland.

"They [Israelis] can go home, Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else."

On her website, Ms Thomas says she regrets the 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."