Ahead of her 90th birthday, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who resigned following her offensive remarks against Israel, may be getting a statue in her honor at the Arab American National Museum in Michigan.
Supporters of the initiative in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit and the town with the second largest Arab community in the United States, are trying to raise money to have the copper statue constructed and put in the local museum.
But Thomas’ remarks that Jews should “get…out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland and Germany, which abruptly ended her 67-year-career, are not helping the cause.
“There are people who don’t want to donate because of it,” said Anan Ameri, the Arab American National Museum’s director. According to museum sources, some $30,000 is needed to have the statue erected.
Ameri said he does not think Thomas herself believes in what she said. “She did good things during her career and contributed a lot and opened doors for women in this country,” he said.
Thomas, who will be turning 90 on Wednesday, is a member of the museum’s advisory board, and the museum has launched a 45-day online campaign to gather the remaining $10,000 that is needed to erect the statue, which is being constructed by former news photographer and sculptor Susan McElhinney.
Despite the difficulties in raising funds, unexpected support of the initiative came from President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit Richard Nodel, who expressed “hope that the support for this memorial is there despite her anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views and not because of them.”
Meanwhile several other Jewish leaders are pressuring Wayne State University to remove Helen Thomas’ name from its annual diversity award.
Long before her career came to a bleak end, Helen Thomas was considered a revolutionary. The White House of the early 1960s was thought to be an exclusive boys’ club. Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants was raised in Detroit, and reached the White House almost by chance, after she was given the assignment of covering John F. Kennedy’s election campaign, with an emphasis on his mesmerizing wife Jacqueline, who the public craved to learn more about.
In 1943, years before President Barack Obama was even born, Thomas began working at the UPI news agency. She was the first woman to be accepted into the National Press Club, and many difficult years later she also became the first woman to join the White House Correspondents Association.
After covering several government offices in the 1950s, Thomas made her way into the White House during John F. Kennedy’s tenure, and remained there until the embarrassing incident that destroyed her career in June, 2010.