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Looks like the movement to rescind Helen Thomas’s honorary degrees has gained some traction: the Society of Professional Journalists now says it will consider discontinuing or renaming its “Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement” in light of her latest round of anti-Semitic remarks.Thomas, the White House Press Corps vet, first made headlines in June when an anti-Jewish tirade — caught by a rabbi’s camera — prompted her abrupt resignation. She reignited those flames last week, when she told the audience at an anti-bias workshop in Detroit that “Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists.”
In response, Anti-Defamation League Director Abe Foxman called more than 30 schools and professional organisations to rescind Thomas’ honorary degrees.
Wayne State University, where Thomas earned an undergraduate degree in English, was the first to sign on. The university pulled its “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in Media Award” Monday, saying it “strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas.” WSU initially decided against discontinuing the decade-old award after Thomas’s June tirade, but last week’s remarks apparently went too far.
And now, SPJ will take up the matter at next month’s executive board meeting. While the board
opted to leave the award as-is at in June, it says it will reconsider that decision in light of Thomas’s latest tirade.
The SPJ posted a letter from Foxman Thursday, which stated:
This episode was a sad final chapter to an otherwise illustrious career as a trailblazer for women and minorities in journalism. Unlike her first off-the-cuff remarks into a camera, Thomas’ comments were carefully thought out and reveal a person who is deeply infected with anti-Semitism…
No academic institution or organisation should want to be associated with an unrepentant anti-Semite and bigot, and it should no longer be considered an honour to receive an award bearing her name.
Thomas’s reaction to Foxman has been explosive, as the Detroit Free Press reports:
“I’m going to tell the Anti-Defamation League to back off,” Thomas said on the radio show. “They think they have the right of intimidation.”
“They already got my job. They want to get my honorary degrees. I mean, who are these people? What’s the matter, they can’t take freedom of speech?”
She also fired back at Wayne State, telling the Detroit Free Press:
“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.”
Thomas has also received accolades from Columbia University, the National Press Club, and the University of Texas, among others.
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