If your lifelong ambition is to win the Helen Thomas Spirit of
Diversity Award from Detroit´s Wayne State University, you might as
well end it all now. Thomas´s alma mater terminated the award
Friday "after she made controversial remarks in Dearborn on
Thursday," reports the Detroit Free Press.
Things move more slowly at the Society of Professional Journalists,
whose website still advertises the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime
Achievement and describes Thomas as "a living icon of journalism for
her dogged pursuit of the truth in a career that has spanned almost
60 years." Thomas said on Thursday: "Congress, the White House, and
Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists." Apparently the
truth outran her.
We asked SPJ if it plans to continue offering the award in light of
Thomas´s latest comments. The society´s president, Hagit Limor,
quickly got back to us by email. She wrote: "I am placing this item
on the agenda for consideration at the next executive board meeting,"
which will be held Jan. 8.
Having finally managed to reach an SPJ executive--Limor´s
predecessor, Kevin Smith, stonewalled us six months ago--we asked
Limor why the society decided to continue the award after Thomas´s
last eruption, in which she demanded that Israeli Jews go "home"--
that is, that they leave their homes and emigrate to the countries
whence their ancestors came. Limor replied: "We discussed the issue
at our exec board meeting in July 2010. The majority believed this to
be a one-time slip that didn´t change Ms. Thomas´s lifetime of
service, which is what we were honoring."
As you might expect, Thomas is not happy with Wayne State´s
decision. "The leaders of Wayne State University have made a mockery
of the First Amendment and disgraced their understanding of its
inherent freedom of speech and the press," she told the Free
Press. "The university also has betrayed academic freedom--a sad day
for its students."
We suppose she could hire a lawyer and sue Wayne State on the ground
that removing her name from the award is tantamount to censorship of
protected speech. We like the university´s odds of prevailing in that
one. As for academic freedom, are we to understand that Thomas claims
to be engaged in scholarship?
It must be said that Thomas´s comment about "Zionists" was taken out
of context and made to look, in most news accounts, like a bigoted
rant. It was that, but it was also something even more pernicious.Click Here for Blogger Robert Stacy
McCain transcribed the remark in context: