On her self-titled MSNBC show on Monday, Andrea Mitchell Reports, NBC's Andrea Mitchell mourned Helen Thomas' resignation as a long time White House correspondent, over recent inflammatory remarks about Israelis, as "a sad way" for her career to end. Talking with NBC's political director Chuck Todd, Mitchell spoke about the loss "in the family" of the White House press corps and bemoaned the end of "a legendary career" of "a friend." For his part Todd noted Thomas' outburst reignited a debate within the White House Correspondents Association about the presence of "very opinionated" columnists and talk radio types in the White House press corps.
The following exchange was aired on the June 7 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Just briefly, I want to talk about something sort of in the family, if you will, in the White House press corps-
CHUCK TODD: Yeah.
MITCHELL: Because Helen Thomas, a legendary career-
MITCHELL: A friend, I have to say for decades and decades and mentor to many women. She was the first woman, really prominent woman in the White House press corps.
MITCHELL: And now she has announced that she is resigning or retiring in the wake of this latest controversy over, really expressing some opinions that have been described - well this was Robert Gibbs today-
MITCHELL: Because Helen Thomas has, we've always known, she's got very strong opinions on the subject of the Israelis and the Palestinians. She is of Lebanese background and she expressed herself in a rather ugly fashion. And this is Robert Gibbs today, before she announced her retirement.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. I think she should and has apologized. Because obviously, those remarks are, do not reflect certainly the opinion of I assume most of the people in here. And certainly not of the administration.
MITCHELL: We should clarify Chuck, what she said was that the, that Israelis should "Get the Hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or back to America.
MITCHELL: What are the thoughts inside the club there?
TODD: Well, I think there were a lot of people that have been uncomfortable with the fact that she's been an opinion columnist for years now. You know she's not been a reporter for a long time. And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding. Right? This issue of talk radio. Look there's a couple of talk radio hosts that hard passes, too. They just don't have a front row seat. But they ask very opinionated, you know it's not really a reporter. You can't call them a reporter, these folks. They're really just sort of on the, you know they're columnists. They're, talk radio hosts are nothing more than, sort of, verbal columnists. And so you wonder what is the line here? And I think that this is reigniting that debate on, you know, who is there to do reporting on the White House and who is there to just write a column? No one should say that they shouldn't occasionally be allowed in the press room But do you get a front row seat? Do you get a seat at all? And I think that's reigniting that debate. And I think you're gonna see some more stringent rules form the White House Correspondents Association going forward, Andrea.
MITCHELL: Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent. A sad way for Helen's career to end, I have to say.
MITCHELL: Eighty-nine-years-old. Helen Thomas. Thank you very much.
TODD: You got it.