Helen Thomas was born the daughter of Lebanese immigrants George and Mary Antonious, August 4, 1920. After arriving on Ellis Island, the family changed their name to Thomas.
Born in Winchester, Kentucky, Helen grew up in Detroit Michigan where she attended public schools as a child. After graduating from Wayne University, Thomas became a copy girl for the Washington Daily News. In 1943, Thomas joined United Press International.
Helen Thomas joined the Washington correspondence team covering the Department of Justice, the F.B.I., the Department of Health, Education and Welfare before she began covering the presidency of John F. Kennedy in 1960 at which time she became famous for ending her press conferences with, “Thank you Mr. President,” a term coined by a former correspondent, the late Merriam Smith.
Thomas became the first woman officer of the Whitehouse Correspondence Association and was its first woman president 1975-76.
During her heyday, Helen Thomas has received awards such as the Matrix, Woman of the Year, and was named by the World Almanac as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America.
On October 16, 1971 Thomas married Douglas Cornell after the engagement was announced by Pat Nixon at a Whitehouse party in honor of the late Cornell.
Thomas travelled around the world with various Presidents, and covered the breakthrough trip to China with Nixon.
May 17, 2000, Thomas resigned, ending a 57 year career, from UPI after it was bought by the News World Communications Inc., which was founded and owned by the controversial Unification Church under the direction of Sun Myung Moon. She was later quoted as calling the transition “A bridge too far.” Thomas was later picked up by Heritage News and continued covering Washington.
Known for tough questions and hard comments, Thomas made jaws drop around the world with the most controversial comment of her career. During a Jewish Heritage Celebration outside the Whitehouse on May 27, 2010, Helen Thomas responded to the query of Rabbi David Nessenoff as to what she thought of the situation in Israel saying, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine….Go back to Germany…” Shortly after the comment and video was published, anti-Semitic comments began filling up the boards on blog sites such as www.Huffingtonpost.com and other popular news sites that carried the story. Thomas was immediately dropped from her agency, Nine Speakers inc. and lost several speaking engagements, as well as a book partnership for her new release, “Listen Up Mr. President.”
June 7, 2010, a few days short of 2 months before her 90th birthday, Thomas tendered her resignation to Heritage News and entered into retirement.
Thomas has since released an apology for her remarks on her website, saying:
“I deeply regret my comments I made last week concerning the Jews 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.”
Here is the www.YouTube.com video posted by Rabbi Nessenoff