(CN) – Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas is retiring amid controversy over her recent remarks about Israel. She said Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and suggested they go to Germany, Poland or the United States. Her retirement is effective immediately.
Thomas, 89, has apologized for the comments, which were captured on a May 27 video by an interviewer for the website RabbiLIVE.com. When asked if she had any comments on Israel, Thomas said, “Tell ’em to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land.”
She said the Israelis should “go home” to Poland, Germany, the United States “and everywhere else.”
Thomas was a columnist for Hearst News Service, which first reported her retirement. She began covering the White House in 1960.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called Thomas’ remarks “offensive and reprehensible.”
“She should and has apologized,” Gibbs told reporters at his daily press briefing. “Because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration.”
Thomas stated on her website, “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis 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.”
Thomas has been canceled as the graduation speaker for Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md. Principal Alan Goodwin sent an email to students and parents Sunday, saying Thomas was being replaced.
“Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness,” he wrote.