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Doubting Thomas Was Hearst's Big Mistake

I'm back, and typing in a bit of a jet-lagged haze after making the wonderful decision to try a two-week vacation through nine times zones without a computer, blackberry, or any pod-like creature in tow.

If you haven't done this lately, I highly recommend it. I predict it will be better than you remember.

Best of all, you'll find that your Facebook friends will forgive you. Actually, you'll probably find they could have cared less you were gone in the first place. Sorry.

Nope, for me it was back to basics. I got my news by reading whatever newspaper I could get my hands on. That makes me old and stubborn, I know. Just hope my Facebook friends don't find out.

And speaking of old and stubborn (OK, really, really old) ...

As I was pouring through a local newspaper one morning, I read that Helen Thomas had let fly with some antisemitic rhetoric that might have played well in Germany -- 70 years ago.

If you haven't heard, the now-former Hearst News Service columnist said out loud and in front of a camera that the Israeli Jews should, "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Germany or Poland.

Even better (far worse) Thomas made her comments after Rabbi (yes, rabbi) David Nesenoff, asked: "Any comments on Israel?"

Better yet (even worse), all this took place at a White House Jewish heritage celebration on May 27.

Good grief.

Thomas later apologized, but the damage was done, and the 89-year-old dean of the White House press corps sent herself packing.

I have never been, and most likely never will be, a "White House media insider" so I did not know Thomas personally.

Through the years I admit to marveling at her staying power, and as a guy with two daughters, appreciated the moxie it must have taken to make it in a business that was for so long dominated by white guys like myself.

Recently, though, it just seemed like she was propped up on display in the front row of the press briefings like some old relic of days gone by. She did, however, provide the name recognition that Hearst was undoubtedly looking for when it hired Thomas a decade ago. At the time, Thomas had just resigned after a whopping 57 years as a reporter for United Press International.

Many of us are finding out now, though, that the folks in the White House press corps that did know Thomas were hardly surprised when she launched her anti-Israel howitzer.

In a recent Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz, CBS correspondent Mark Knoller had this to say:

"She (Thomas) asked questions no hard-news reporter would ask, that carried an agenda and reflected her point of view, and there were some reporters who felt that was inappropriate. "As a columnist she felt totally unbound from any of the normal policies of objectivity that every other reporter in the room felt compelled to abide by, and sometimes her questions were embarrassing to other reporters."

In the same Post story, National Review Online columnist Jonah Goldberg dropped this bomb:

"She's always said crazy stuff," Goldberg said. "One reason she gets a pass is that there's an entrenched system of deference to seniority in the White House press corps. . . . This new-found horror and dismay that people are expressing about Helen Thomas are beyond a day late and a dollar short."

Better yet (worse), Thomas had this to say some six years ago during a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

"I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now I wake up and ask myself, 'Who do I hate today?' "

Isn't that sweet?

So Thomas was a known boob and a bigot who long ago outgrew any usefulness, and nobody did a thing about it -- least of all her employer, Hearst Corporation.

Nope, it seems as if Hearst was only too happy to let their little piece of history wobble into the briefing room each day and take the choice seat it turns out she (or they) hardly deserved.

I looked for comments from Hearst about Thomas' "resignation" and found none. The news consortium simply released this black-and-white, four-paragraph brief on its website headlined, "Helen Thomas Announces Retirement."

That's it.

Then again, I suppose their decade-long inaction to prevent their ticking time bomb from blowing up in everybody's faces speaks for itself.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)