Hours before it was announced that she would retire on Monday, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough defended Helen Thomas, saying that the 89-year-old journalist shouldn't be held responsible for her comments that Jews should "go home" and "get the hell out of Palestine." The Morning Joe host pleaded, "I think you cut her slack at 89."
With a rather condescending view of the elderly, Scarborough suggested, "Somebody goes and talks to her and says, 'Helen, you know what? Smile in the front row and ask a question every once in a while.'"
Co-host Mika Brzezinski didn't buy it, asserting that people of that age know "exactly who they are because they don't care as much about" politeness.
Ignoring the long stream of outrageous and over-the-top things Thomas has said over the decades, Scarborough professed, "Her career shouldn't be defined at what she said at 89. I would hate for this to be the lede in her obituary ten years from now."
Later in the day, MSNBC colleague Andrea Mitchell mourned the "sad way" Helen Thomas' career ended.
A transcript of the June 7 segment, which aired at 6:35am, follows:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Thomas has since apologized. In a posting on her website, she says, quote, "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only then when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day soon come.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: All right. So, how old is she?
BRZEZINSKI: I don't know.
SCARBOROUGH: 88, 87. I don't know.
WILLIE GEIST: She's alive.
SCARBOROUGH: All I can say is this. And I think I can say this, because I'm a pro-Israeli guy that was, like, 100 percent with AIPAC or whatever. 89. I don't want my parents on TV now and they are not 89. And I know your dad is good [Pointing to Mika] But most people in their 80s are going to say things they shouldn't say because people in their 80s aren't the people they have been for the past 50, 60, 70 years.
BRZEZINSKI: Actually, you can argue they are better because they are exactly who they are because they don't care as much about, you know- they just say it.
SCARBOROUGH: You think Helen Thomas- Come on.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I might have been very revealing what she said. I don't know if I would say that about people in their '80s. That's just not very nice.
SCARBOROUGH: My parents say things and I'm like, you know what? Close the door and do not say that. Love them, they are great, but as- I just think that you cut them slack. I think you cut her slack at 89. Somebody goes and talks to her and says, "Helen, you know what? Smile in the front row and ask a question every once in a while."
BRZEZINSKI: Joe, just go to sports.
SCARBOROUGH: I'm just saying- Her entire career- I'm making an important point. Her career shouldn't be defined at what she said at 89. I would hate for this to be the lede in her obituary ten years from now. See how generous I'm being?