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Veteran reporter Helen Thomas returns to the press, with little fanfare

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When longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas came under rhetorical fire over comments critical of Israel, she apologized and immediately resigned her post as a columnist with Hearst Newspapers, ostensibly ending a legendary career in journalism that began some 69 years ago.

That was June 7, 2010.

Since then, Thomas has made precious few appearances in the media, opting only to defend herself from the most serious charges of antisemitism. Her remarks, she’s insisted, were meant to be critical of the nation’s policy toward Palestine, not of the Jewish religion or its adherents specifically.

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“I hit the third rail,” she told an Ohio radio station in October. “You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive.”

But, apparently she has.

Yesterday, to remarkably little fanfare in the US mainstream press, Thomas returned to the media with a scathing indictment of Republican efforts to privatize Social Security.

Her new column appeared exclusively in The Falls Church News-Press, a small Virginia publication with a circulation around 30,000.

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“She is progressive, and following my more than eight hours of direct, one-on-one talks with her since the events of last June, I remain firmly convinced that she is neither bigoted, nor racist, nor anti-Semitic,” Nicholas F. Benton, the paper’s owner and editor, said in a published statement.

The two have known each other personally since 1991, Benton told Raw Story, and her column has regularly appeared in the paper since 2004.

“I’ve always had a tremendous admiration for her, even when I was in the White House press office myself,” he said during a Thursday telephone conversation. “When this all went down this past summer, I let her know that when she was ready to resume writing her column, I’d be willing to discuss that with her.

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“I’ve stayed in touch with her and met with her since then and at the beginning of December I heard through a mutual friend that she was ready to give it a try. I called her and she said yes, and I said we’re ready to go. She suggested that we start after the first of the year so, here we are.”

“Ms. Thomas’ comments were intemperate and inappropriate, as she conceded afterward,” his prepared statement read. “Her remarks in June were in response to a question about Israel, not Jews, and were intended to mean that in these times, Jewish people are free to live wherever they wish, because the era of anti-Jewish persecution is ended. That was not adequately expressed because of the impromptu nature of the incident.”

Benton additionally told Raw Story that she is being compensated, but did not specify whether she retained a particular title with the paper.

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“I am proud that a journalist of the stature and professionalism of Helen Thomas is relaunching her career, in her ninetieth year no less, in my newspaper,” he added. “She more than deserves, and I am honored to help provide her, the proverbial ‘second chance.'”

Updated from a prior version.


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