Helen Thomas Retires Amid Controversy

Cynthia Dermody
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Helen Thomas at press conference
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty

Oh, Helen Thomas. How could you?

The veteran 89-year-old White House news correspondent announced she's retiring following what is being viewed as anti-Semitic remarks toward Jews in the Middle East: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. [They should] go home to Poland, Germany," she told a rabbi during an interview at a White House event last week.

Retiring is the right move. Much as I utterly disagree with her view, that's not what I'm in a tizzy about.

Helen, dear, Helen, as a fellow reporter at my roots (albeit, you're getting up there in age), how could you forget the golden rule of journalism: No, not that we are unbiased and report the news fairly. Because we aren't. Because we don't. As much as we live and breathe that credo, we're homo sapiens first, which makes total disinterest impossible.

The first rule is: Keep your opinions to yourself. Certainly when asked by another reporter holding a camera and a microphone. Lie if you have to. Pretend to be unbiased. OMG don't actually tell us what you really think!

Oh, but did she ever, followed by a pretty lame apology which I'm not buying, at least not the first part:

"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians," Thomas said in a statement on her Web site. "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."

She didn't have a sudden change of heart. That the Jews should leave Palestine is still her opinion, and she probably has her reasons. She's certainly not the only one who feels that way. It's a big old complicated mess with lots of different views and ways of looking at it.

It's important to remember that Thomas was not working as an opinion columnist. She was playing the role of impartiality. And now that we know how she really feels, the guise is ruined forever. We can't possibly take her reporting seriously anymore. Not that we should have before, with her or any other reporter. That bias was always there. It's just we can't go on pretending that it isn't. And everyone, including the White House, the entire press corp, and all the writers associations have ostracized her for it, rightly so.

In all my years of reporting for newspapers big and small, I had opinions. Even when I tried not to care, I always did, all the way from what color uniforms the high school marching band should get to who should win the Presidency. They seep into our reporting, in the most subtle ways, even when we don't realize that it does.

Judging is human nature. If we didn't judge, even a little, we'd be perfect. And I'd really like to interview that person, so if you know him or her, please send me his or her name.

Better yet, send it to Hearst News Service. I hear there's a job opening available with a front row seat.

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