Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas resigned on Monday from her position with Hearst Newspapers, following the wave of criticisim she has faced since her recent declaration that "Jews should get the hell out of Palestine."
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The Obama administration on Monday called Thomas' remarks "offensive and reprehensible." The comments also drew sharp criticism from Jewish group and former friends, and let a Washington-area high school to cancel its invitation for her to speak at its high school graduation.
Thomas, who joined Hearst Newspapers as a columnist in 2000, has apologized for comments captured on video by an interviewer for the website http://www.rabbilive.com. On the May 27 video, Thomas says Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or the U.S.
Gibbs said Thomas' remarks "do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."
The principal of the Bethesda, Maryland high school where she was scheduled to give a graduation speech sent out on e-mail on Sunday announcing that Thomas was no longer invited to speak.
Thomas had been scheduled to speak at the June 14 graduation of Walt Whitman High School, but Principal Alan Goodwin wrote in the e-mail to students and parents that she was being replaced - though it has not yet picked a new speaker.
"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," Goodwin wrote.
Thomas, a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, issued an apology on her Web site on Friday for her comments.
"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians," Thomas wrote on her 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."
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, said Sunday that Thomas' apology didn't go far enough.
"Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history," Foxman said in a statement. "We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."
American Jewish groups welcomed Thomas' resignation. "Despite Helen Thomas reputation for controversial statements and beliefs, it was clear that her recent comments went too far, even for her," said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, and Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "We applaud Hearst Newspapers and Helen Thomas for coming to the decision today that it was time for her to step away."
Thomas, 89, began her long career with the wire service United Press International in 1943, and started covering the White House in 1960, according to a biography posted on her website.