Why Firing Helen Thomas Wouldn’t Have Violated Free Speech
By: Elizabeth Marion
Liberal journalist Helen Thomas has sparked controversy over her comments that Jews should go back home, citing Poland, Germany, America, and “everywhere else” as their home. In a perfect world where everyone did the right thing and condemned these kind of hateful, and downright evil, comments Helen would already have been fired. Instead the comments have largely been ignored, not receiving anything close to the harsh condemnations and rejection that they deserve.
A formal apology has been issued from this reporter, but words that are this hateful cannot be brushed aside because someone claims in a statement that they are deeply sorry. Helen Thomas is retiring, but why should she have the privilege? Why does she have the opportunity to retire when those words deserved an immediate firing? After those horrible comments she still gets to retain the dignity of stepping down herself instead of being fired.
Helen Thomas has the right to her own opinion and she has the right to say what she wants, even when what she says is as detestable and evil as telling blacks to go back to their home on the plantations. As offensive as her comments were, I am still a firm believer that no one should lose their freedom of speech because someone else is offended. That doesn’t mean that she could not have been held accountable for what she said. She still could have been fired.
Firing her would not have taken away her right to express her views. It would have taken away her right to express those views as a journalist for Hearst Newspapers. All employers have standards of conduct for their employees. And employees, because they represent the company they work for, are fired frequently for the things they say if it makes the company look bad. An employee can get fired for saying something rude to a customer. Why can’t Helen Thomas be fired for being hateful to the Jews? Her comments were racist. Such outrageous racist comments do reflect on her employer and it is more than enough justification for her to be fired. After that, she would still be able to say anything she wanted. She just wouldn’t be able to do it through the newspaper she used to work for. Businesses and employers should always have the right to fire someone who is making the company look bad with their words. Facing the consequences of her actions would not be taking away her right to say whatever she wants. But instead Helen had the opportunity to step aside herself, a dignity that she did not deserve. If anyone else had made these kind of comments about blacks or Hispanics the gavel couldn’t have come down quickly enough. Helen Thomas’ comments reflect on Heart Newspapers. And the fact that they chose not to fire her reflects on them too.