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Thanks and hugs from all, Helen Thomas, 89-year old, oft-referred to “dean of the White House press corps,” who retired today, Monday, moments after the parroting White House Correspondents Association said it was considering stripping her of her front row press briefing room seat. What brought on their echoing ire?
Well, it was as simple as Helen suggesting back in May that Israeli Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Germany and Poland “or wherever they came from.” Bless you, Helen, for claiming your rights of free speech and the press, constitutionally granted to you, and telling the violent if not psychopathic state of Israel where to go. I personally would have suggested hell, a more fitting place for these lying, two-faced lunatics.
You are a hero and secular saint in my book. I know in the eyes and ears of honest journalists around the world you are still setting the pace for truth and justice, regardless of consequences. Especially in the wake of Israel’s ruthless and illegal attack in international waters on the Turkish Freedom Flotilla, killing nine, wounding 30, beating then imprisoning the others. This as the six ships, which had all been vetted, and 800 passengers sailed to bring medicine, water, food, building materials and hope for Gaza and life back to the people of Palestine.
But then Helen, you were always at least a notch above, a questioner of note: from JFK to Ronald Reagan, through two Bush administrations, and the latest presidential lackey, Barack Obama, you persevered. To your undying credit, GHW would not call on you for three years you rattled him so. Yet you were the only female journalist to accompany Nixon on his historic trip to China. You also traveled with Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Reagan, Bill Clinton and both Bushies around the world. Not bad for the kid of Lebanese parents, born on August 4, 1920, in Winchester, Kentucky and moved to Detroit at an early age.
You covered the DOJ, FBI, Health, Education and Welfare, moving on to the Kennedy beat in 1960. You even made it the movie Dave, appearing with Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Laura Linney and Bonnie Hunt. Add to that several years as White House Bureau Chief for UPI, from which you resigned in 2000, but kept covering the White House as a correspondent for Hearst News Service. You were no lightweight, Helen, like the feathery types floating about today, looking over their shoulders in case some real news should bite them.
When Bush Jr. finally asked you back, your first question was
“I’d like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your cabinet, your cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth. What was your real reason? You have said it wasn’t oil, quest for oil, it hasn’t been Israel, or anything else. What was it?”
And a lot of coughing and choking ensued.
Helen added at a later date, “I’m covering the worst president in American history.” Though she later wrote Junior a letter of apology, no one could fault her for lying, except perhaps Barack.
In 1976, she was named among the first 25 most influential women in America; in 1985 inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame; on May 20, 2007, she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Siena College in Loudonville, New York, for contributions to breaking the gender barrier in journalism, though unquestionably she was the one with the cojones.
The board of the correspondents association met to consider how to respond to her “contentious remarks” and issued this statement — questionable to its last syllable:
”Helen Thomas’ comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them. Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trail blazer on the White House beat.
“While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter.
“We want to emphasize that the role of the WHCA is to represent the White House press corps in its dealings with the White House on coverage-related issues. We do not police the speech of our members or colleagues. We are not involved at all in issuing White House credentials, that is the purview of the White House itself.
“But the incident does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the WH briefing room. That is an issue under the jurisdiction of this board. We are actively seeking input from our association members on this important matter, and we have scheduled a special meeting of the WHCA board on Thursday to decide on the seating issue.”
Earlier on Monday, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, condemned the remarks made by Ms. Thomas.
Gibbs said he had not spoken directly with the president about it. But, he added:
“Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. She should and has apologized. Obviously those remarks do not reflect, certainly, the opinion of I assume most of the people here, and certainly not of the administration.”
So Helen, dear Helen, take it all with a grain of salt and a good stiff shot of scotch. You were right on the money as usual and ahead of the curved spines behind you. So go home. Take your shoes off. And when you’re ready, start your fifth book, “How I Bested the White House Press Stiffs.” You are in all of our thoughts.
Miss Thomas has also written four books, “Thanks for the Memories Mr. President, Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House,” “My Life and Times,” and the latest, “Watchdogs for Democracy: The waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public.” Bravo, Miss Thomas.