The well-known Hearst journalist and White House reporter, 89-year old Helen Thomas recently resigned from her position after making racial comments. While speaking with a rabbi, Thomas said that Jewish people should, “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland. This remark was caught on video and soon posted to the Web. Although she did apologize right after, the damage was already done. Many called her comments ignorant and offensive. Her scheduled speech at a graduation ceremony was even cancelled.
Thomas is a prominent member of the press, particularly in Washington. She was always known to ask the “tough” questions. During her sixty-year media career, she has covered every president in the White House since Eisenhower while working for United Press International. Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club and the first woman officer and president of the White House Correspondents Association. She is accredited as one of the most influential women in America and has written five books. She was even born the same year that women won the right to vote. Coincidence???
Certainly Helen Thomas has established herself in the media and political world during her six- decade career and has done great reporting in Washington. Unfortunately, one bad PR move ended her career on a sour note. Granted, Thomas will turn 90 in August, and retirement may have been on the horizon anyway, but this is no way to end more than 60 years of hard work. Instead of being remembered as possibly one of the most influential women in politics and media of the century, she may now be remembered as a bigoted old woman who didn’t know when to retire or to keep her mouth closed. Maybe she said the things she did because she was just a little too comfortable in her position or feels she is entitled to say what she thinks because of her age. Who’s to say? Regardless, her career is over and it didn’t end well.
What may have helped Thomas, if there was any chance of redeeming her credibility and respect of Washington as well as the public, would be the help of a public relations rep. Thomas issued an apology right away, which was a smart move and apologized on her website explaining that she really doesn’t believe the things she said. Another PR move to turn things around for her may be to publicly interview or report on Jewish leaders, highlight what positive things these leaders have done recently and why they are strong, positive members of the Jewish community. This would mostly likely not fully restore her image, if at all. However, the public might give her a second chance if she took her apology a step further and actually showed that she does respect the Jewish community. After all, look at all the positive things she has done throughout her career. It looks as if right now, no one is willing to forgive or forget Thomas’s racial comments. Had she taken further steps to restore her image, would the public eventually deem her a credible reporter? Due to her immediate resignation no one will ever know for sure.