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Awards Honoring Helen Thomas May be Renamed

Helen Thomas
Helen Thomas CBS/ AP

Ten years ago, Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, created an award to honor outstanding journalists and named it after one if its most distinguished alumni - Helen Thomas. The Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award celebrates journalists who bring diversity to the media and was most recently given to Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. and veteran journalist Lynette Clemetson.

But now, after the uproar sparked by footage of Thomas making several disparaging remarks about Israel and Jews surfaced last week, the future of the award is in question.

Ben Burns, director of Wayne State's school of journalism, told the Detroit Free Press that the university is considering changing the name of the award. "There have been folks already who have asked about it," he said.

The Washington Post also reported that the Society of Professional Journalists may consider renaming its Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement in the wake of the controversy.

Kevin Smith, president of the SPJ told the Washington Post that while he is not personally inclined to advocate for the change, discussions are being had.

"Helen Thomas has been a member and supporter of SPJ for a very long time, and do we throw all that away for this last transgression?" Smith asked, but followed with, "On the other hand, if you were Jewish and given this award, would you go up and accept it? Without taking a knee-jerk approach, you need to consider other perspectives."

Thomas, 89, came under fire after tape surfaced online of her saying Israelis should, "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Germany and Poland. President Obama today called the remarks, "offensive" and "out of line."

Amidst criticism and calls for her removal from the prestigious front row of the White House briefing room, Thomas announced her retirement yesterday from her post as a columnist for the Hearst News Service, thus ending her 50-year career in journalism.

Thomas issued this apology after the video was released: "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."

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