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ADL's Abe Foxman hails retirement of 'bigoted' Helen Thomas

The Anti-Defamation League declared victory today after Helen Thomas retired as a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and ended a five-decade career as a White House correspondent. According to ADL National Director Abe Foxman, the group had lodged several complaints about Thomas over the years, and it took too long for her opinions on Israel to be smoked out.

"I think the response from the White House, the response from the WHCA, the response from good people everywhere, made it very clear she's a bigot and should no longer maintain a role as a journalist," Foxman said. "There was a permissiveness about the questions she asked. Nobody ever challenged her. She always colored the news -- she was always bigoted about Israel. This is better late than never, but it should have happened earlier."

Foxman speculated that Thomas's legendary status had let her get away with offensive reporting that wouldn't have otherwise been accepted in Washington.

"She got that seat because she was an icon, a trailblazer," Foxman said, "not because she was brilliant or an objective reporter. I'm glad she's gone, period. It will be better for everyone not to have a bigoted journalist sitting at press conferences asking the first question."

I asked Foxman to contrast Thomas with Fred Malek, the Republican power-broker who has long apologized for having counted the number of Jews working for President Richard Nixon's Bureau of Labor Statistics -- a role that was larger than previously known, according to new documents from the Nixon archives.

"I would have defended Thomas if the first time she was caught saying this, she apologized and said it will never happen again," Foxman said. "I don't understand why the attack on Fred Malek isn't over. Somebody makes a mistake, says he was wrong, tries to atone by building relationships with Jews -- at what point does politics stop? This man said he made a mistake, and we moved on. There's absolutely no comparison with Thomas -- her apology was not an apology."

Foxman pointed out that the esteem for Thomas among reporters is so high that the Society of Professional Journalists gives out a lifetime achievement award named after her -- she received the first one in 2000.

"It'll be interesting if they want to continue honoring her," Foxman said.

By David Weigel  |  June 7, 2010; 5:07 PM ET
Categories:  Media  
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