The award, named “the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media,” was ended in light of Thomas’ most recent controversial comments about “Zionists.” Thomas graduated from Wayne State in 1942 and the award has been given out for a “decade.”
In June, Thomas left her post as a White House columnist following her taped comments that “Israelis should ‘Get the hell out of Palestine’ and ‘go home’ to ‘Poland, Germany and America, and everywhere else.'” Those comments were condemned by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, the White House Correspondents’ Association, the Anti-Defamation League and others.
“We are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is…, We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.”
In a statement, the university spoke out against Thomas’s comments.
“Wayne State encourages free speech and open dialogue, and respects diverse viewpoints. However, the university strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas during a conference yesterday.”
The Detroit Free Press reported that Thomas criticized Wayne State University for axing the award.
“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 is quoted as telling the Free Press. “The university also has betrayed academic freedom — a sad day for its students.”
ADL’s national director, Abraham H. Foxman, stated:
“Helen Thomas has clearly, unequivocally revealed herself as a vulgar anti-Semite. Her suggestion that Zionists control government, finance and Hollywood is nothing less than classic, garden-variety anti-Semitism…. Unlike her previous, spontaneous remarks into a camera, these words were carefully thought out and conscious. It shows a prejudice that is deep-seated and obsessive.”
“It is time for those schools and professional organizations that have honored Thomas in one form or another over the years to consider rescinding those honors in light of her pervasively anti-Semitic rhetoric. Professional associations and academic institutions should not want to be associated with an anti-Semite.”
Read the complete statement from the Anti-Defamation League here.
At the time, Wayne State University announced it would keep the award, while condemning Thomas’s “wholly inappropriate” comments.
The Society of Professional Journalist’s president Hagit Limor told the Wall Street Journal that the journalists’ group will consider changing its annual award, the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement, at its “next executive board meeting” on Jan. 8.