Just saw this announced on MSNBC, longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas is going to retire. This comes on the heels of her controversial comments about how Jews in Israel should go back to countries in Europe that created a firestorm. She recently cancelled a graduation speech at a high school in Maryland, so maybe we should have seen this coming.
Update: OK, here's a link to the MSNBC story. Not much there yet, as it just happened.
Dave Weigel explains the downfall that conservatives had been waiting for.
The important thing to remember here is that Thomas, who has covered the White House for 50 years, does not have a reservoir of goodwill with anyone outside of the White House Press Corps. For decades, conservatives have accused Thomas of bias. (Jonah Goldberg's take on the scandal explains it all.) For the past few years, they have honed in on her opinion of Israel as a main source of bias. In 2005, Ann Coulter sneeringly referred to Thomas (whose family is Lebanese) as an "old Arab." The usual suspects demanded an apology from Coulter, but she was saying what a lot of conservatives thought -- that Thomas was biased against Israel and American foreign policy, and only her status as a "legend" allowed her to ask questions of the president.
For those of us who don't cover the White House, Thomas's current status and access is something of a mystery. She writes a column, but she doesn't break news. She is allowed to ask questions at practically every presidential Q&A, and usually asks questions about the Middle East that no other reporter would. Her first question to Obama in 2009, for example, was whether he "knew of" any Middle Eastern country with nuclear weapons -- an attempt to get him to name Israel. At 89 years old, she had become an institution, someone whom it was rude to criticize even if she said something strange.
No longer. I don't know how her reputation survives this scandal. Conservatives who have attacked her credibility for years finally have the proof they need to end her special status.
And it looks like they've won. Took 'em 50 years, but still.
If you've been living under a rock for the past few days, this is the damning video of Thomas's remarks. I don't think there's any reasonable way to defend her comments here.
Now, after those comments, Thomas did quickly apologize.
Thomas later issued a statement: "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 the damage was already done.
(And I didn't realize there's such hatred for David Corn over at FDL because he said her comments were "stupid".)