Gosh, if you want to deflect a conversation away from the real issues into invention and stirred-up righteousness, I guess one way to do it is for a career hardhead like 89-year old Helen Thomas to say something incendiary, regret it, apologize for it, and have her colleagues throw her right under that bus waiting outside the White House press room.
Let's start with what she said:
OFF-CAMERA: "Any comments on Israel?"
HELEN THOMAS: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.
Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, not Poland."
OFF-CAMERA: "so where should they go?"
HELEN THOMAS: "Home. Poland. Germany. America. And everywhere else."
As Squareboy on Daily Kos said, it's hurtful to hear that. She should apologize.
And she did. Here is her full apology:
"I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt 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," she wrote.
ADL rejects her apology because it does not "go far enough". Craig Crawford and her agent dump her. Lanny Davis, always right in front whenever possible, condemns her. Ari Fleischer cries "Off with her head! (And her job)." Rick Lazlo piles on. Joe Klein wants her sent to the back of the
bus room. Sarah Palin tattoos her as racist. A local high school replaces her as their graduation speaker. Red State froths. NewsMax has a field day. Winger blogs everywhere are blessed with outrage and attendant traffic. The din is so loud everyone misses her apology. The right continues to bearhug anti-semitic Pat Buchanan, who is routinely applauded for his support of right-wing causes. He doesn't have to apologize.
Meanwhile, Hearst has not made a decision on whether she will keep her place as part of the White House press corps.
I am not going to defend what she said. I understand that it is hurtful and offensive to many. However...
She apologized, folks. This pile-on looks to me to be opportunistic and driven by RedStaters and Freepers out there who have a long-standing hate on for Helen.
I just did a little search here on Crooks and Liars. I found references made by Fox News personalities to her as the "wicked witch" (no apology). Tony Snow paints her as a representative of Hezbollah. No apology. Ann Coulter called her an "old Arab" and scrubbed her website of all reference when it was caught. No apology.
Helen Thomas is the one who asked the tough questions of the Bush Administration about why we're in Iraq, why torture was sanctioned by Bush appointees, why it was okay for President Bush to dismiss the bloodshed in Iraq as a comma, and the White House's support for Tom Delay when he was charged with money laundering.
So ask yourself. Is this about an insult to Israel or an opportunity for wingnuts to USE an insult to Israel as a way to squelch Thomas' first amendment rights?
When you consider that question, also remember this was said in the context of an informal interview. She didn't say it in the press room; she answered a question as a citizen with an opinion. Her opinion may not be acceptable, but does she not have the right to one?
UPDATE: And the inevitable happens: Helen Thomas announces she is retiring, effective immediately.