Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports on an e-mailed statement from former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who apparently had the same reaction to Helen Thomas as just about everyone else in the US.  After telling a reporter on camera that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and then apologizing, Fleischer says that any kind of endorsement of ethnic cleansing would have resulted in an immediate firing for anyone else in the White House Press Corps.  So why should Helen get a pass? (via Newsbusters)

But even as she was trying to walk back the remarks, calls for her firing mounted. Among the more vocal was former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who claimed to have a close relationship with Thomas when he was manning the daily briefings.

“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer said in an email. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”

“She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”

Helen Thomas has been a national joke for years, at least since Tony Snow thanked her once for providing the “Hezbollah view” in the daily briefings, but people rolled their eyes at her cranky, off-topic commentary for years before that.  Stein says that her more “filtered” questions — really just rants about Israel dressed up as Jeopardy-style answers in question form — were popular with some of the “political and foreign policy observers” (presumably, Stein means in the press corps).  Yeah, I’ll bet.

Now that Thomas has expressed her true feelings on ethnic cleansing — and remember, Jews have lived in “Palestine” for millenia and got kicked out of other old Ottoman cities well before Israel came into existence — will those observers stand up to defend Thomas and those views?  Will they just keep silent?  Or will they call for an action that is probably at least 20 years overdue in asking for Thomas’ expulsion from the WHPC and asking for someone to replace her and her exhausted anti-Israel hobby horse?  For that matter, will the Hearst chain endorse Thomas’ views on Israel by keeping her employed, or will they cut her loose?

I’d bet that we’re in for a big round of silence.  Hearst will bury its head in the sand, and Thomas’ friends in the press will desperately look away as one does with a mildly demented old relative who shouts embarrassing insults in crowded public places and hope that bystanders believe that they’re too embarrassed to correct the old lady.