NPR logo Helen Thomas' 'Zionist' Comment Leads University To Pull Honor

Helen Thomas' 'Zionist' Comment Leads University To Pull Honor

Helen Thomas in May 2010. Susan Walsh/AP hide caption

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Susan Walsh/AP

Wayne State University won't be bestowing any more diversity awards named for Helen Thomas following more controversial remarks by the former dean of the White House press corps.

The university pulled the honor, the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, after the 90-year-old said this week that "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by Zionists. No question, in my opinion."

Thomas made those incendiary comments, according to a Detroit News report, before a diversity conference Thursday.

In an earlier report, the newspaper quotes a Wayne State official explaining the obvious, that the university had to put distance between itself and its famous alumna.

"The controversy has brought a negative light to the award, which was never the intent of the award," said Matthew Seeger, interim dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

Thomas was forced to retire from Hearst Newspapers earlier this year after making comments about Israel in which she suggested Jews leave "Palestine" to Arabs and head to Europe and the U.S.

The former reporter is of Lebanese descent. She became known during her later years in the White House press corps for jousting with presidents, particularly over the U.S.'s supportive policy toward Israel.

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During the Iraq War, her following grew among critics of the invasion and occupation ordered by President Bush, with her assertive questioning of the president and other officials.