June 15, 2010
Helen Thomas retired last week, effective immediately, from the Hearts News Service after the uproar provoked by her shocking and totally unacceptable comments on Israel that I will not repeat.
A colleague at Ruder Finn said to me, “She should have known that in the present context, her statement would have serious consequences.” What present context? Did he mean that her comments were just politically incorrect?
Her comments were outrageous in any context and offensive to all.
The problem with political correctness is that it only addresses what we say (or write) not what we really think or believe. What we think and believe is what really matters. Her apology/excuse is revealing. She said:
“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”
She did not elaborate why she regretted her comments nor what was wrong with what she said.
Jack Marshall, an ethicist and lawyer and president of ProEthics LLC (ethicsalarms.com) thinks that Helen Thomas “does think the Jews should get the hell out of Palestine, and in an unguarded moment, admitted it.”
Stewart Ain of The Jewish Week confirmed this when he wrote that Ms. Thomas’ “anti-Israel views were well known among friends and colleagues and have occasionally been on public display.”
It is true that we sometimes say things that we do not mean. But we should ask ourselves whether we are sure that we did not mean it. Maybe, somehow we actually believed what we said.
The most important question of course is what if what we believe is wrong? What if we are prejudiced? What if we do have feelings of hate for an individual or a group?
Billy Graham, the American evangelist and friend and pastor of Presidents from Hoover to Clinton was more honest in his apology about some anti-Semitic comments he had made to President Nixon that was revealed when the White House tapes became public. He said:
I deeply regret comments I apparently made… They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks,” and “If it wasn’t on tape, I would not have believed it. I guess I was trying to please… I went to a meeting with Jewish leaders and I told them I would crawl to them to ask their forgiveness.
We should first be as honest as we can with ourselves.
The Psalmist David exemplified such honesty when he wrote:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.