The executive committee of the Society of Professional Journalists voted last week to retire the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement after the veteran journalist stood by controversial remarks she made about Israel. The recommendation will be sent to the full board of directors for a vote to retire the award with Thomas’ name attached.
From the SPJ press release:
“This is a complex issue, and the executive committee considered comments and letters from both sides. Because of the importance of this decision, it is appropriate to put this before the full board,” SPJ President Hagit Limor said.
The executive committee said the following in making its recommendation: “While we support Helen Thomas’ right to speak her opinion, we condemn her statements in December as offensive and inappropriate.”
The committee considered removing Thomas’ name from the award in July after remarks she made earlier in the year but decided not to take any action saying it was a one-time spontaneous action for which she later apologized. However when she reiterated those remarks in December it placed the SPJ in a difficult position and in the end they decided to move away from any further controversy by recommending the board retire the award.
Even though the committee was slow to act and should have realized that Thomas has an outright hatred for Israel they did the right thing by voting to retire the award though they should have removed Thomas’ name from it at the same time. Hopefully the full board will follow through on the committee’s recommendation and put this tainted award behind them.