Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio Sunday joined a growing chorus calling for White House reporter Helen Thomas to be fired over her remarks about Israel, calling what she said "racist and despicable."

Thomas,  89, who made her name as a bulldog for United Press
International and was a pioneer for women in journalism, abruptly retired as a columnist for Hearst News Service. The announcement, in a terse statement by Hearst, came after videotaped remarks she made to an independent filmmaker spread virally through the Internet.

Thomas said Jews should leave Israel and "go home" to Poland and Germany. She made the remarks May 27 at a White House Jewish Heritage ceremony, but they were not widely circulated until they were posted on YouTube June 3 by

"Helen Thomas' racist and despicable comments against members of the Jewish community is an offense to all who wish to live in freedom," Lazio said in a prepared statement. "At a time when Israel is defending herself against terrorists, Ms. Thomas' latest anti-Semitic rant is outrageous. Hearst must do the right thing and fire Ms. Thomas immediately. Nothing less will do."

Hearst owns 15 daily newspapers, including the Times Union of Albany. A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thomas last week apologized on her personal website, "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance," she said.

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Lazio won the GOP nomination for governor at last week's party convention. He faces Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto declined to comment on the matter.

With AP