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Posted at 6:30 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Helen Thomas returns from retirement with new column in Falls Church community weekly

By The Reliable Source

Helen Thomas, 2010. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

(Update: Helen Thomas talks about why she came back)

She's back.

Seven months into an unwilling retirement, Helen Thomas is reentering the world of journalism -- with a column in a Northern Virginia community weekly.

The vet­eran Washington correspondent-turned-columnist, 90, made her Falls Church News-Press debut Thursday, with a piece decrying efforts to privatize Social Security. It's a far cry from a syndicated column and a front-row seat in the White House briefing room -- but hey, these days, a platform's a platform. Her essay seemed to be a reader-magnet for the paper's Web site, drawing more than 100 comments (cheers and jeers) by 6 p.m. Owner/editor Nicholas Benton insisted Thomas was a natural fit for his publication.

"We fashion ourselves as an inside-the-Beltway newspaper," he told us. "Our readers are very engaged."

The uproar over Thomas -- who in June stepped down from her Hearst Newspapers job after she was videotaped telling a rabbi that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" -- has barely died down; despite attempts to explain her comments, things flared up again last month when Thomas told a conference that "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists."

But Benton, while acknowledging that Thomas' s comments were inappropriate, defends her, saying she misspoke and was misunderstood; her meaning, he said, was that "Jewish people can live wherever they want."

"I've had no less than eight hours of personal one-on-one conversations with her since that happened," he said. "She's not bigoted or racist or anti-Semitic. She has her differences about foreign policy but you're allowed that."

Benton himself knows controversy. A gay-rights activist in early '70s Berkeley, he became a lieutenant in the fringe-left movement of perennial candidate Lyndon LaRouche -- he met Thomas while covering the White House for a LaRouche publication -- before splitting away disenchanted in the '80s, according to a 2007 essay he wrote for the News-Press. In 2004, his paper touched nerves with an editorial that some Jewish leaders complained suggested a Jewish cabal controlling U.S. foreign policy. Benton has also argued in favor of journalists making contributions to political campaigns -- as he does to Democrats -- and going public with their beliefs.

Benton said the News-Press started carrying Thomas's Hearst column in 2004, and she's attended a handful of events thrown by the paper. (We did not hear back from Thomas by press time.) Will her column have the same punch if she's no longer embedded at the White House?

"She is incredibly sharp and savvy," Benton argued, and very plugged-in: "You can be in front of a TV set with your favorite 24-hour news station, and you're not missing much." Though he added that he hopes she's comfortable returning to the press briefing room from time to time. "She's a rock star. She should be writing again. . . She's the Betty White of American journalism -- I don't know if you want to say that, does that diminish her?"

By The Reliable Source  | January 6, 2011; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  Politics  
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Comments

So Frau Helen's employer is a LaRouche supporter? Well, birds of a feather flock together, and in this case, the birds are both Jew-haters.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 6, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

How heart-warming that narrowminded, senile bigots like her can find a job in this economy!

I, too, have many defamatory and overgeneralized opinions about any number of ethnic, religious & cultural groups.

I can't wait til the F-C rag gives me my own column, too!

Posted by: fendertweed | January 6, 2011 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Yawnnn.. I guess we could celebrate Lord Haw Haw, the British Nazi, getting a radio program too. Please, this woman was an embarrassment and wasn't fired for years simply because she hated Republicans.

Posted by: wjc1va | January 6, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Incredibly sharp and savvy…hardly! However, Thomas is incredibly biased. So what does having an over the top bias writer on staff say for the Falls Church News-Press?

Posted by: priveye | January 7, 2011 6:39 AM | Report abuse

Yay! Journalism needs her, not flakes with cell phones.

Posted by: femmeflick | January 7, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Oooh boy, the AIPAC flacks are out in full force this morning. No grey areas here, say anything the slightest bit critial of the Irsaelis and get labeled a "jew hater"!

Posted by: SoCali | January 7, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: WashingtonDame "So Frau Helen's employer is a LaRouche supporter? Well, birds of a feather flock together, and in this case, the birds are both Jew-haters."
-----------------------------
So how exactly is saying "that people of Eropean decent don't have sole rights to a place in the middle east merely because of their religions ties to the area and that if they don't like sharing the land with other groups who have just as much religious history (and have actually been living there) tied to that area they are free to go ealsewhere" being a Jew-hater?


Posted by: schnauzer21 | January 7, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"Please, this woman was an embarrassment and wasn't fired for years simply because she hated Republicans."

So actually daring to question and criticize Bush and Cheney regarding Iraq, instead of joining the amen chorus, means she hated Republicans? Uh-huh...

Posted by: mkarns | January 7, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Was Thomas forced to retire for stating her opinion? If so, would she have been forced to retire if she had stated her support of the Israeli occupation?

Posted by: bugrad | January 7, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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