The Ethics of Helen Thomas Awards

When does an honor start honoring the wrong values? This tricky ethical problem is now in the spotlight thanks to the sudden self-destruction of Helen Thomas, who blurted anti-Semitic sentiments to a Rabbi, on camera, in an impromptu interview.

There are journalism awards named after Thomas, including The Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement given by the Society for Professional Journalism. Now that Thomas has included among her life time achievements a demand that the Jews “get the hell out of Israel” and go back to Germany and Poland—you know: “where they belong,” what does her name on the award mean to future recipients? Is accepting it a tacit endorsement of her views? Or should individuals be assessed on the totality of their careers, and not solely identified with their inevitable missteps. no matter how reprehensible? The latter was a common theme of eulogizers at President Richard Nixon’s funeral. Continue reading