Abrupt exit for doyenne of White House reporters after Israel remark

Reporter Helen Thomas has abruptly retired after 57 years covering the White House beat following a row over comments she made about Israel.

Hearst News Service has announced the immediate retirement of the reporter who was due to turn 90 this year. The LA Times reports that she told a rabbi at a White House event last month that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine”.

The LA Times reports:

Her style was direct, persistent and repetitive. She became a staple of the White House press room, an institutional mainstay. At news conferences, presidents called on her by name. To her delight, Boris Yeltsin did too.

Her questioning of President George W. Bush on the Iraq war made Thomas a thorn in the side of the administration and a hero of the antiwar left. She was introduced to a new generation through a cameo appearance in comedian Stephen Colbert’s searing critique of the press at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner. In the video of Colbert’s audition tape for the job of press secretary, the satirist tries to dodge Thomas’ questions but cannot shake her.

“She was always the first person there in the morning and she was the last person to leave at night. She felt the White House was her personal responsibility,” said Ron Cohen, who supervised Thomas as a UPI Washington bureau chief.

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