Helen Thomas is Playboy's April Interview A Candid Conversation with the Disgraced Dean of the White House Press Corps About her Rage against Israel, her Sympathy for Palestinians and Why she was Fired
CHICAGO, March 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- "I knew exactly what I was doing – I was going for broke. I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up…I finally wanted to speak the truth," explains former dean of the White House Press Corps Helen Thomas when asked about her now infamous May 27, 2010 comments on Israel in Playboy's April Interview (issue on newsstands and online at www.playboydigital.com Friday, March 18). The outspoken journalist sparked controversy when a rabbi and blogger asked her for remarks on Israel and she responded "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," adding that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else." Shortly thereafter her comments went viral and Thomas abruptly resigned from her post at Hearst Newspapers on June 7, 2010.
The 90-year-old veteran reporter sat down with Playboy Contributing Editor David Hochman for her first in-depth interview following her contentious remarks. Not only did she share her thoughts on Israel and Palestine, she also discussed her sentiments towards Jews, her supposed retirement, President Obama, Congress's anti-Arab agenda and her obituary. Following are selected quotes from the interview:
On the aftermath of her May 27 remarks about Israel: "I went into self-imposed house arrest for two weeks…Every columnist and commentator jumped on me immediately as anti-Semitic. Nobody asked me to explain myself. Nobody said, 'What did you really mean?'"
On the situation in Palestine: "Everybody knows my feelings that the Palestinians have been shortchanged in every way. Sure, the Israelis have a right to exist – but where they were born, not to come and take someone else's home. I've had it up to here with the violations against the Palestinians…[The Palestinians] are incarcerated and living in an open prison. I say to the Israelis, 'Get out of people's homes!' It's unacceptable to have soldiers knocking on a door at three in the morning and saying, 'This is my home.' And forcing people out of homes they've lived in for centuries? What is this? How can anybody accept it? I mean, Jewish-only roads? [She later corrected herself to say Israeli-only roads.] Would anyone tolerate something like that in America? White-only roads?"
On Palestinian violence against the Israelis: "Of course I don't condone any violence against anyone. But who wouldn't fight for their country? What would any American do if their land was being taken? Remember Pearl Harbor. The Palestinian violence is to protect what little remains of Palestine. The suicide bombers act out of despair and desperation. Three generations of Palestinians have been forced out of their homes – by Israelis – and into refugee camps."
On American support of Israel: "We keep giving Israel everything. Our government bribes the Israelis by saying, 'Please come to the [negotiating] table and we'll give you this and we'll give you that'…Why do you have to bribe people to do the right thing? I don't want my government bribing anybody. I want them demanding. Stop all this aid to Israel when they're killing people!...Why do they send my American tax dollars to perpetuate it?"
On Jews: "I think they're wonderful people. They had to have the most depth. They were leaders in civil rights. They've always had the heart for others but not for Arabs, for some reason. I'm not anti-Jewish; I'm anti-Zionist."
On Jewish persecution and victimization: "The slaughter of Jews stopped with World War II…They were liberated since then. And yet they carry on the victimization. American people do not know that the Israeli lobbyists have intimidated them into believing every Jew is a persecuted victim forever – while they are victimizing Palestinians…Why do they inflict the same pain on people who did nothing to them?"
On memorializing the Holocaust: "There's nothing wrong with remembering it, but why do we have to constantly remember? We're not at fault. I mean, if they're going to put a Holocaust museum in every city in Germany, that's fine with me. But we didn't do this to the Jews. Why do we have to keep paying the price and why do they keep oppressing the Palestinians? Do the Jews ever look at themselves? Why are they always right? Because they have been oppressed throughout history, I know. And they have this persecution. That's true, but they shouldn't use that to dominate."
On the Jews' influence and power: "[The Jews are] using their power, and they have power in every direction…Power over the White House, power over Congress…Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There's total control…It isn't the two percent. It's real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. [To the interviewer] You don't deny that. You're Jewish, aren't you?"
On Congress's anti-Arab sentiments: "I want you to look at the Congress that just came in. Do you think [New York Democratic senator Charles] Schumer and Lehtinen – whatever her name is – in Florida [Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a strong supporter of Israel] are going to be pro-Arab? No. But they're going to be very influential. Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the Republicans, do you think he's going to be for the Arabs? Hell no! I'm telling you, you cannot get 330 votes in Congress for anything that's pro-Arab. Nothing."
On the uprisings and demonstrations sweeping through the Arab world: "I love the new revolutionary spirit in the Middle East and North Africa. The power of the people is removing ruthless dictators in Tunisia and Egypt – and that's only the beginning. There is no stopping this free new movement. The Arab world is waking up to the possibilities of democratic life and freedom for its people, and I am happy to see this happening in my lifetime."
On what her obituary will say: "[Eyes suddenly fill with tears] Oh, I know what they're going to say: 'anti-Semite'…They don't give a damn about the truth. They have to have it their way, and they'll be writing my obituary…I don't care what they write about me…Because of what happened recently, people are going to remember me a certain way. The truth is, I don't hate anybody. I care deeply about people. I care for the poor, the sick, the lame, the harmed, those who've been treated unjustly."
On whether or not she has lost her mind: "I resent that question! I thoroughly resent it. Why are you interviewing me if I'm crazy? It wouldn't be worth it to you, would it?...You should apologize."
On her supposed retirement: "I'm not retired! I was fired. In fact, I'll die with my boots on. I'm still writing and I'll continue to write and ask hard questions. I will never bow out of journalism."
On why she became a journalist: "I got into it because I am very nosy, very curious, and because I thought it was a great profession. It's an education every day to be in journalism, and it's given me a great life."
On the changing nature of journalism: "Everyone with a laptop thinks they're a journalist and everyone with a camera thinks they're a news photographer. Where are the standards? How can we get back to the ethics and standards of journalism? There's no editing, no oversight. It's just thrown to the wind. I'm afraid of what's happening."
On WikiLeaks: "I think it's great. It's important to reveal what's going on behind the scenes. We wouldn't have known half this stuff without this information, and it's going to change everything as far as diplomacy."
On Obama's conservatism: "People are unhappy. The trouble is, swinging to the right is always dangerous. We end up losing so much in the rush to conservatism. But even Obama has fallen down that hole. He's pushing a conservative agenda…Look at Guantanamo. With a stroke of a pen, the day after Obama took the oath he should have said, 'We're getting the hell out of here.' Same thing with Iraq and Afghanistan. There's no reason for us to be in war…I thought Obama would be for peace, but he's not."
On her belief that Hillary Clinton and President Obama would be liberal: "I thought, naively perhaps, that [Hillary Clinton] and Obama would bring change, that they would be different. I assumed wrongly that they would be liberal because he's black and she's a woman. It's maddening."
On George W. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq: "George Sr. had been head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee. He knew politics and he knew foreign policy, but he didn't give any of that to his son. Dubya was a hip-shooter. If you look at the Downing Street Memo from 2002, you see the chief of British intelligence had come here just before George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. It concludes that the president simply was determined to go to war and that he wanted to fix the facts to do it. But there were no facts. We just went to war for no reason."
On the hanging of Saddam Hussein: "I think it was wrong to hang Saddam Hussein. He should have been put before an international court for war crimes and everything else. But for us to just bypass the law and have him hanged was wrong. Not that the press called the president on it. The press rallied around the flag on that one."
On Dick Cheney: "Now, there was a vice president. [laughs] The idea that he could have been president. I think Cheney is diabolical."
On George Stephanopoulos: "He started closing the door to the press secretary's office his first week on the job. 'Journalists keep out!'…He didn't treat [journalists] civilly. But then immediately after he's out of the White House, he wants to go into our profession. It's like he couldn't stand being out of the limelight. I mean, why should George Stephanopoulos have been a great journalist? Well, he's not, in my book."