Yes, this is extremely belated, but somehow I didn’t get around to writing about it.
Anyway, everybody knows by now what Helen Thomas said, but what very few mainstream media outlets (aside from Jewish blogs and Wikipedia) have mentioned is that the person to whom Thomas made her now-infamous comments was a rabbi wearing a kippah (Jewish skullcap) on his head. In light of this, what Thomas said wasn’t just culturally insensitive, ignorant, and crude–it was an uncalled-for personal insult to a Jewish individual. It would be equivalent to saying that Muslims should “get the hell out of Europe and go home to Iran, Iraq, and everywhere else”–to a woman wearing a hijab. (The notable difference being that Iran and Iraq, while dangerous and unstable, are at least Muslim countries, while Germany and Poland, the two most enthusiastic perpetrators of the Holocaust, certainly aren’t Jewish ones.)
In light of this, I’m frankly shocked that so many people have defended Helen Thomas and bemoaned the fact that she decided (or was asked/forced/persuaded/coerced) to resign. This is especially “feminist” bloggers who seem to feel that people should be able to say anything they want, no matter how reprehensible, without having to face the consequences–as long as they are women. Feministing is guilty of this, though it at least refrains from going a step further like some others have by claiming that Thomas’ remarks were perfectly acceptable and in fact, accurate.
(There is also much to be said regarding the fact that Feministing regularly and enthusiastically denounces intolerant remarks made about women, blacks, Hispanics, the LGBT community, and many others–as it should, of course–while mostly excusing intolerant remarks made about Jews. This, however, is a topic for a future, very scathing post.)
Anyway, the particular circumstances in which Thomas chose to reveal her views on Jews make a terrible comment even worse, and it’s unfortunate that the media has largely ignored those circumstances. Thomas was right to resign. Journalists are free to hold whatever views they choose, no matter how intolerant or controversial, but journalists who crudely espouse those views to the very subjects of their prejudice have no place in the field.