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Ralph Nader Says Helen Thomas Should Be Reinstated

Helen Thomas was fired recently from the White House Press Pool after making some statements regarding Israel that were deemed either insensitive or anti-Semitic, depending upon the source. Ralph Nader did an interview with The Real News Network, part of the transcript of which is excerpted below:

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. It was only about a week ago Helen Thomas retired, I think obviously under pressure after some comments she made when what we’re told is a rabbi put a camera in front of her face, asked her what she thought of Israel. And I think everybody by now has seen the comments. If you haven’t, you can find them on our site. Now joining us to discuss this affair is Ralph Nader. Thanks for joining us.

RALPH NADER, AUTHOR, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Thanks, Paul.

JAY: So what’s your take on what happened?

NADER: She should be reinstated. She’s a courageous journalist. She came here in 1942, blazed the way for women like no one did — the first president of the Correspondents’ Association of White House correspondents, the head of the Gridiron Dinner. She demanded that all these doors that were closed to females be opened up, and she was the courageous pioneer. She also set a standard for journalism, asking the tough questions on the minds of most Americans that the weak-kneed White House press corps would never ask, like to Bush, why did you invade Iraq? A million people have died. Et cetera. She would ask questions that started with why, and that’s almost a taboo in the White House press corps. You know, you ask softball questions, but you don’t ask questions about violating international law, violating our constitution, violating our statutes, questions dealing with torture, with surveillance of Americans without a court review. And she also asked questions about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Now, she’s sitting on a bench in the White House during Jewish Heritage Week, and a rabbi comes up, and he said, hi, Helen; what do you think about journalism? She said, I think it’s a great profession; you can’t lose; young people should go into it; let everybody learn it. He said, what do you think about Israel? She said, well, they should get out of Palestine. And hardly a controversial statement. You know, I mean, the UN resolutions say they should get out of the West Bank and Gaza, 242 and so on. And then he asks her, well, what would they do? And that’s when she said something which I don’t think she believes. She apologized right away. She said something that basically was an offhand comment. Like, a lot of people make an offhand comment. You know how many people — and we’ve all heard the Washington press corps privately (she didn’t do this as part of her job; just an offhand comment) say bad things about Arabs. Anti-Semitism against Arabs is rife in politics today, not just talk radio. I mean, you’ve got [Michael] Savage, you’ve got [Sean] Hannity, you’ve got [Rush] Limbaugh. I mean, the things they say about Muslims and Muslim Americans–. And how about Ann Coulter? She didn’t lose a $30,000 speech, she didn’t lose any gig, she didn’t lose her column, and she said horrific things about going over there and slaughtering Muslims if they can’t be converted to Christianity–she added that point. So, I mean, one mistake like that–which she apologized for–and they terminated her column, they terminated her career. They’re going to replace her in the White House press corps. It’s like a professional execution. And now the polls, I’m told, are highly in favor of her coming back.

JAY: Yeah, there was a Washington Post poll yesterday which showed 88 percent of the people were opposed to her removal from the White House press corps. She asked something specific. I mean, this is what people say [inaudible] some people have called her anti-Semitic and all of this, and that’s the idea that where should they go, and she said they should go back to Germany, they should go back to Poland, they can go back to America. Now, most of the critique forget that she said go back to America.

NADER: And elsewhere.

JAY: And elsewhere. And they don’t talk about the fact that Poland was an antifascist population on the whole. Of course there was anti-semitism there, but the Polish people fought the German invasion, and amongst those Polish people fighting were Jews alongside non-Jews. So that doesn’t get talked about. But the whole — I mean, people know, a lot of people watching The Real News know I wrote a piece about this, so they know where I’m coming from on this, which was called “In defense of Helen Thomas,” if you didn’t see it, so you can at least know where I stood on it. But I think one of the points that’s being missed here is that what she said — whether a lot of people disagree with it and think people are there and they’re there and they have to sort it out, but she said it’s not so outrageous that there should have been an atmosphere of lynching here. One could discuss that the same way one could discuss should Europeans get the hell out of North America. So talk a bit about the atmosphere.

NADER: Well, I mean, I’m sure she regrets the way she phrased it. But, I think, in back of her mind she sees the White House not condemning the kidnapping of the ship, the Turkish ship, not condemning nine dead, six missing; she sees what’s happening to the people of Gaza–open-air prison, anemia, serious anemia with 40 percent of the kids there, the blockade, and the siege; I mean, she sees all these things, going back to the navel ship the Liberty and a White House just rubber-stamping the Israeli version of it, keep selling or giving weapons that are used against the Palestinians. She’s of Arab origin, for heaven’s sake. I mean, just put the shoe on the other foot. Like, you have Jewish-American reporters, where a massive Arab power is pummeling and slaughtering and occupying the lands of the Jews, they would do a lot more than a casual comment, sitting on a bench, you know, at the White House. There’s no proportionality here. The agenda is there are people in this town (like Ari Fleischer and Lanny Davis, who were the two ring leaders to try to get her out), they have been waiting to get her out of there. She asked controversial questions about the Israeli-Palestine issue.

You can read the full interview here. Ralph Nader is a former Green Party presidential candidate and an Independent presidential candidate in 2008.

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Trent Hill

13 Comments

  1. Gary Odom Gary Odom June 23, 2010

    Well, she may or may not be a nutty old bat, but for all her crazy comments over the years she never had to retire until she made this particular comment, did she? So, what lobby wields the kind of power to make THIS particular outrage more important than all the rest of her outrages over all these years, hmmm?

    What the hell happened to freedom of speech?

    I absolutely respect Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself, but why should Israel dictate American foreign policy and why should AIPAC decide what the news will be heard in America?

    Shades of Jimmy the Greek and Al Campanis—and if you don’t know who they are then you are probably a frigging pathetic political geek who needs to take a look at what is going on in the rest of the world…including the sports page.

    I met Ralph Nader in 2008 and was very impressed with him, particularly his honesty. I disagree vigoursly with his western European socialist inclinations, but you know where he stands and he respects the will of the people. And he certainly isn’t the tool of the multi-national corporations. If I had no CP or LP person I could vote for, I would vote for Nader over any Republican or Democrat, with the exception of Ron Paul.

  2. David F. Nolan David F. Nolan June 22, 2010

    Hate to have to agree with Bruce, but he’s right on this one.

  3. Bruce Cohen Bruce Cohen June 22, 2010

    It was not one stupid bigoted comment.

    Helen has been making both stupid AND bigoted comments for decades.

    She’s a hateful woman and an out-of-the-closet anti-semite.

  4. Ross Ross June 22, 2010

    I agree with Nader’s sentiment, although I didn’t read the piece. It was one stupid, kind of bigoted comment, but the woman’s been doing her job for like 50 years and if she’s just said this one bad thing over all those years, then that’s not too bad for her and I don’t think she should lose her job over it.

    If she had said a similar thing about Arabs, I doubt there would have been such a backlash. And there were probably a lot of people looking for any excuse to fire her, since she’s not the type to go to supersoaker parties at the vice president’s house.

  5. LibertarianGirl LibertarianGirl June 22, 2010

    she said “send the jews back home to Germany , Poland , America ”

    Wile I absolutely support Palestine , and im no fan of the Israeli GOVERNMENT ( im no fan of ANY government) , the people deserve a right to exist . Im quite certain , if the governments would get outa the way , the PEOPLE could learn to coexist peacefully

  6. Kimberly Wilder Kimberly Wilder June 22, 2010

    I admire Helen Thomas and agree with Ralph Nader.

    Helen Thomas is a necessary voice in the press corps to challenge the government and the President.

    I truly believe that it is the old game of…a Republican could not get rid of a liberal, woman, journalist without the Republican being castigated. But, if a Democratic President smiles, and lets her be buried in the dust, people don’t notice so much.

    Poor Helen Thomas. She was ambushed and treated unfairly. Someone timed this as a smokescreen as Israel committed more atrocities.

    I hope Helen Thomas comes back. (Or, the karma gets Obama and the Press Corps, and an even more assertive woman journalist takes her place!!!)

    😉

  7. Deran Deran June 22, 2010

    I admire Helen Thomas, and Ralph Nader. If the US cut off our biggest welfare recipient, the Israeli government, they would sort things out in 72 hours.

    I say, let the illegal Jewish colonialists stay in an independent Palestine, as Palestinian citizens. Jewish Palestinians, just like there are Arab Israelis. I think that would lead to a real change in ethnic relations over time.

  8. Equal Rights, Regardless of Religion or Ethnicity Equal Rights, Regardless of Religion or Ethnicity June 22, 2010

    Jews have a right to stay in Israel — and Palestinians have an equal “right of return.”

    To deny Palestinian’s “right of return” is equally wrong to what Helen Thomas said.

    And for those who say “There’s no such thing as Palestinians” — well, in that case, they must be Israeli Arabs, since they originated from Israel. All the more reason to allow them, and their relatives, the right of return, to share the land, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.

  9. Another Green Party Conservative Another Green Party Conservative June 21, 2010

    Helen Thomas is about 90 now, but it’s still not too late for her to join the Green Party.
    Maybe she could even run for office as a Green Party candidate. Maybe even for President in 2012. But more likely for state legislature or Congress.

  10. Lou Lou June 21, 2010

    Thank you, Ralph Nader, for being a voice of reason and integrity. You are my personal hero. What a country this would be if the American people had had the sense to get behind you for president.

  11. Green Party Conservative Green Party Conservative June 21, 2010

    Thanks for the Green Party post.

    I know Helen Thomas and have enormous respect for her.

    Agree with Nader.

    Those questions she asked of Bush and others were brave and needed.

    God knows they were the same questions many Green Party candidates asked for years…

    Appreciate Mr. Nader’s continued courage as well.

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