Tell Us What You Really Think … Unless There’s A Videocamera Nearby

Helen-ThomasWhenever I spend time around older Wise Women, I’m always struck by their wilingness to say it like it is. I may not LIKE what they’re saying, but I respect that their views are based upon the life experience they’ve gained from living many years on this earth. In fact, the ability to speak one’s mind uncensored is one of the true benefits of aging.

That is, of course, unless you live in the age of the worldwide Internet, there’s a video camera capturing your words, and you speak politically unpopular opinions.

That’s what happened to Helen Thomas, 89-year old veteran White House reporter, who just quit after the uproar over her remarks about Israel. Thomas, who is of Palestinian descent and was walking to a White House event celebrating Jewish heritage, stopped to talk to someone toting a videocamera and asking for her advice to young journalists. As you can see from the original clip on, she is then asked if she has any comments about Israel. Her response: “Tell them to get the hell out!” followed by a brief elaboration of her remark.

Helen Thomas is now person non gratis in Washington circles. The White House rebuked her. Her press corp colleagues quickly distanced themselves. A high school disinvited her from speaking at their graduation ceremony This will change, of course, as our country has an attention span of 60 seconds and anĀ  even shorter “forgive and forget” rate. It also helped that Thomas issued an apology on her web site.

Certainly, the “rule” of being able to speak freely in one’s golden years was turned on its head with this incident. What’s your take on Helen Thomas’s remarks and the national reaction? Does watching the actual video clip of the exchange affect your opinion?


  • ann Says:
    6-8-2010 08:44:59

    Helen Thomas…well until recently I liked and admired. But before her demise on the Israel issue
    I had been very disappointed to hear her ask a completely off topic question during the q&a in the President’s press conference on the Gulf (our Gulf) crisis.

    What I had previously championed as a courageous independent spirit appeared to have morphed into a querulous, argumentative style.

    I don’t necessarily attribute the change to “golden years.” Surely if that was the case then how do we explain an unchanging admirable ethic and influence as exemplified by Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and John Wooden?

    Back to the Israel issue…surely an intelligent and supremely well informed person like Thomas who had lived through the years of WWII, knew the history before and after those years would recognize the sheer stupidity and particularly the incredible insensitivity of suggesting they go “home” to Germany, to Poland. Those countries where their families, friends and perhaps themselves had been systematically and relentlessly identified and subjected to barbaric treament.

    I personally think the situation in the Middle East is a mess and prefer to stay netural seeing merit on both sides of the wall…oops…argument.

    But this is about Helen Thomas. At best her remarks could only be interpreted as unthinking. But the absurdity of her “solution” to send them “home” to the genial and welcoming environment that translated to the Holocaust was incredibly cruel. Insensitivity does not always get noticed or punished. In this case, due to her prominence, Ms. Thomas has left her long and reputable career with a final mark of non-distinction.

  • Catherine Says:
    6-8-2010 09:13:05

    I think it sad that Ms. Thomas ended her long, ground breaking career with an ill-advised statement. I hope that she will be remembered for her achievements.

  • Anne Says:
    6-10-2010 22:27:12

    Ann – I must say that was an incredible response/recap. Thanks.

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    How is it that so often ... I get the feeling I've worked hard to learn something I already know, or knew, once.
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