Update: The board of directors of the SPJ voted to permanently retire the Helen Thomas Award on January 14, 2011.
New York, NY, January 10, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the recommendation of the Executive Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to "retire" the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement.
The recommendation, approved in a vote Saturday at a meeting in Nashville, Tenn., will be sent to the full board of directors within the next 10 days for a final vote, according to SPJ. If the recommendation is accepted by the full SPJ board, the award would be retired with Thomas's name attached, meaning no lifetime achievement award will be given in the future. Awards presented to past recipients would not be renamed.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
We welcome the move by the Executive Committee of the SPJ to retire the Helen Thomas Award in the aftermath of her deplorable anti-Semitic remarks, and we hope that the full board will accept their recommendation. No respectable professional organization should want their name affiliated with someone who espouses offensive and stereotypical anti-Semitic views.
We disagree with those who argue that discontinuing the award would put a damper on Ms. Thomas' First Amendment rights. Quite the contrary: Ms. Thomas still has every right as a journalist and American to freely express her personal views about Israel, Zionism or any other subject.
Fortunately, there are consequences in our society for those in positions of power or authority who publicly express racist, anti-Semitic or prejudiced views. We are pleased that the executive committee of the SPJ agrees that this award was no longer appropriate given the unprofessional and unbecoming conduct of its namesake.