8 Jun 2010

Why Helen Thomas had to resign

Fidel Castro was once asked to define the difference between democracy in Cuba and the United States. "I don't have to answer questions from Helen Thomas," the old revolutionary replied.

The grand dame of the White House press corps, who outlasted nine American presidential administrations – and Castro's rule – was finally forced to halt her determined, often opinion-laden questioning and into retirement this week over comments on the issue closest to her heart, the Middle East.

There were no fond farewells for the 89-year-old reporter remembered as a trailblazer for women in journalism but also as a grumpy old contrarian. Her front-row seat in the White House briefing room, in recent years uniquely tagged with her own name rather than that of an organisation, was left empty.

Reporters who variously described Thomas as cranky, stubborn and opinionated said they weren't surprised she'd finally overstepped the mark when she told a rabbi that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Poland and Germany. But the torrent of anger and criticism was tempered by Thomas' lofty status.

The Guardian