Hell on Wheels


We long ago learned that forced retirement at age 65 was a bad idea.

In the world of political journalism, it’s the end of an era: Helen Thomas has retired just months shy of her 90th birthday.

Now we know that working forever is also not great. Especially with people living forever.

The longtime White House journalist has covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower and broke several barriers for female journalists but stepped down from her latest role — a columnist for Hearst Newspapers — in the wake of controversial remarks made in late May about the need for Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Poland and Germany.

As much as people pay lip service to the concept, it’s a rare person who knows enough to get out of the game when they’re on top. And if they do, they tend to feel compelled to make a comeback and ruin it.

“Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately,” read a statement from Hearst Newspapers on Monday. “Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.”

After a long career, she retires knowing that she won’t be missed.

During Thomas’ fifty-seven years as a correspondent for United Press International, Thomas earned a reputation as a tough questioner willing to put the feet of politicians to the fire, while simultaneously becoming a whipping boy for conservatives who objected to her liberal viewpoints and, later, for her privileged position within the White House press corps (the middle seat in the front row was — first by protocol and then by mandate — designated for Thomas).

After her smug, non-apology apology issued on her website a few days ago, this is all the more satisfying.

Thomas said in a statement that, “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. 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.’’

A new and improved apology has been reported by Howie Kurtz of the Washington Post, even if it hasn’t been issued broadly by Thomas.

Reached at home, Thomas, 89, said: “I’m very sorry for my remarks. I think I crossed the line. I made a mistake.”

Let her now enjoy sitting poolside in Florida, complaining about who didn’t take a long enough shower before taking a dip.

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