Obama calls long-time journalist's comments 'offensive,' but praises career

Controversial comments made by the dean of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, were "offensive," but at the same time she had a remarkable career, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

During an interview on NBC's "Today" show, Obama criticized Thomas's remark that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and move back to Germany and Poland, but did not go so far as to say they will taint her five-decade career, which ended abruptly on Monday when she announced her retirement.

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"Well, her comments were offensive," he said. "It is a shame, because Helen's someone who has been a correspondent through I don't know how many presidents — was a real institution in Washington. But I think she made the right decision."

Thomas's remarks touched off a controversy last week and she came under pressure to quit her job as a Hearst Newspapers columnist.



The 89-year-old Thomas began her White House reporting career in 1960, covering the presidency of John F. Kennedy for UPI. She eventually covered 10 presidents and earned praise for being a trailblazer for women in the press.

Hearst announced that Thomas would retire, effective immediately, on Monday after apologizing last week. Thomas's criticisms of Israel have come to a head since she transitioned from reporting to column-writing.

Asked if he thinks her comments on Israelis will taint her legacy, Obama said the remarks "were out of line, and hopefully she recognizes that."