Skip

The Dean of the White House Press Corp
July 20, 2013 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Helen Thomas (Previously and Previously and Previously), who covered ten different administrations in her 49 years in the White House Press Corps (and maintained her rabble rouser image with both Republican and Democratic administrations), has died at age 92.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (161 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
.
posted by donajo at 8:50 AM on July 20, 2013


Even if her opinions were not my own, I still had respect for how she handled herself in the White House Press room
.
posted by wheelieman at 8:51 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


.
posted by fredludd at 8:51 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by dobbs at 8:52 AM on July 20, 2013


.

A wonderful, smart lady who advanced journalism for plenty of women.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:56 AM on July 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


.
posted by Lynsey at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by pianoboy at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Chichibio at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:59 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by raztaj at 9:00 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 9:02 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by DaddyNewt at 9:03 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by immlass at 9:04 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A wonderful, smart lady

Except for the whole anti-Semitic part (see the first and third "Previously" above)
posted by The Gooch at 9:05 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


.
posted by mothershock at 9:06 AM on July 20, 2013


She was a reporter, not a stenographer.

.
posted by Gelatin at 9:06 AM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:08 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 9:08 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by lalochezia at 9:11 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:12 AM on July 20, 2013


. for making presidents squirm for fifty years, the anti-Semitism not so much.
posted by jonp72 at 9:12 AM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


–30–

posted by mazola at 9:16 AM on July 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


.
posted by hooha at 9:16 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:20 AM on July 20, 2013


Love that she did what she did almost until she died. Fuck retirement.

.
posted by dry white toast at 9:23 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


She was a thorn in the side of one of the dumbest presidents ever. Claims of anti-semitism, while having some basis, were way overblown and also understandable given her exposure to events. Here's hoping the US deserves someone half as good as her as a staple in the White House press corps in the future.
posted by planetesimal at 9:25 AM on July 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


.
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:30 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by box at 9:30 AM on July 20, 2013


. For being a pain in the ass to every US President since Eisenhower and two thumbs up for daring to speak out against the European colonisation of Palestine, which some people confuse with "anti-Semitism",
posted by three blind mice at 9:31 AM on July 20, 2013 [48 favorites]


Though there was much that was admirable, even in death, the notion of antisemitism remains: ie, I have seen some posts that state she lost her job because Jews control the media.
Fact: what she said in her tirade was that Jews in Israel ought to go back to their own country. She forgets, unlike many Germans today, that (1) she left her homeland, (2) that it was her homeland that killed off some 6 million people and in fact helped bring about the new state of Israel. Helen, there were Jews living in Israel well before there was a state of Israel.

Perhaps in the Hereafter she will flourish and put aside the silliness that in a small part spoiled a wonderful woman.
posted by Postroad at 9:32 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


.
posted by variella at 9:32 AM on July 20, 2013


[This thread needs to not turn into an argument about Israel/Palestine. Thank you.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:34 AM on July 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


She's a poster girl for mandatory retirement. Whatever she did in the past as a trailblazer for women, she ruined it with her macaca moment. "Build bridges all your life and you're a bridge builder, but suck one dick etc. etc."

P.S. Please dont say her antisemitism was "understandable". It's unbecoming.
posted by gertzedek at 9:35 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Claims of anti-semitism, while having some basis, were way overblown and also understandable given her exposure to events

In the first "Previously" link, there is video of Thomas saying that Israeli Jews need to go back to where they came from (specifically mentioning several countries best known historically for rounding up Jews for the express purpose of torturing and killing them)

The third "Previously" link is an interview with Thomas where she really goes off the rails, even invoking the whole, "The Jews control the media (but some of my best friends are Jewish!)" nonsense.

I can't help but wonder if her prejudice was directed towards a more underprivileged group (or one whose home country had less controversial politics) if people would be so quick to dismiss it as "overblown" and even actively cheering it on as "daring"
posted by The Gooch at 9:44 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I once went to stand on the street in my city to watch the presidential motorcade go by. In one of the cars that preceded President Reagan, Helen Thomas was sitting by the window. It was as surreal to see her in the flesh as it was to see President Reagan when he passed by a few minutes later.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:46 AM on July 20, 2013


I laughed when I read the "women's angle" mention of her assignment to cover the White House. I'm not quite that old but there were certainly limitations like that when I started in the news biz as a teenager. Women didn't cover city hall; after the female weekend cop reporter ran off with the married editor of the Sunday edition, women weren't allowed to take the cops beat for years.

Thomas was 89 years old when the rabbi (and I know him; his style is rather in-your-face) confronted her. Nothing I read in her comments are anti-semitic, if that's what you're referring to. She thought the land belonged to the Arabs. I disagree with that viewpoint. But anti-semitic? If an Israeli Jew can say that Arabs kicked out of their homes in the West Bank should just move somewhere else, why can't a person of Arab descent say something similar about Jews?

Anti-semitism is a word that should be reserved for prejudice and hate of Jews, which continues in too many parts of the world. Here's the wikipedia account if you want to read it. Or have I missed something else?
posted by etaoin at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


I can think of no eulogy more aporopriate than this article.
posted by gertzedek at 9:52 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Renoroc at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2013


"If an Israeli Jew can say that Arabs kicked out of their homes in the West Bank should just move somewhere else, why can't a person of Arab descent say something similar about Jews? "


None of these are defensible positions.
posted by gertzedek at 9:54 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I won't presume to speak for Ms. Thomas, but the read I got on her "anti-semitic" statements was that she was addressing modern day emigrants to Israel from western countries who were already radicalized and seeking out residence in occupied territories. That's quite a different animal from a wholesale dismissal of the notion of Israel.
posted by planetesimal at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


etaoin: Or have I missed something else?

I notice that the link in the third "Previously" to Helen Thomas' controversial Playboy interview is no longer active. Here is a copy. If her incident with the rabbi left reasonable doubt as to whether Thomas was anti-Semitic or just "disagreeing with Israeli politics" this interview pretty clearly showed she belonged firmly in the former category.
posted by The Gooch at 10:00 AM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:01 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by arcticseal at 10:04 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by homunculus at 10:10 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by lslelel at 10:18 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by dougzilla at 10:24 AM on July 20, 2013


.

One of the absolute greats. If I had a tenth of her talent I could die happy with my career.

(Re: the outburst, anti-Israel is not anti-Semitic. It's a specific country with a specific government and a specific set of policies that are all very open to criticism on their own merits. Otherwise I guess my rabbi's an anti-Semite too.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:24 AM on July 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


.
posted by Palquito at 10:25 AM on July 20, 2013


Crazy to see the slideshow, first with Obama, then Bushes, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, LBJ, Kennedy...

She's been covering the White House my entire life!
posted by Windopaene at 10:27 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 AM on July 20, 2013


Re: the outburst, anti-Israel is not anti-Semitic. It's a specific country with a specific government and a specific set of policies that are all very open to criticism on their own merits.

Don't know that the "Being anti-Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic" mantra works for Thomas' "The Jews control the government and the media" comments in the article I linked above.
posted by The Gooch at 10:28 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


.
posted by drezdn at 10:29 AM on July 20, 2013


I think it's possible that she began to show some of the affects of aging-- few of us make it to our late 80s with all our faculties intact.

She was a one of the greats in her field and a trail-blazer for women.

.
posted by jokeefe at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by rossmeissl at 10:31 AM on July 20, 2013


Remembering Helen Thomas (autoplays)
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on July 20, 2013


Helen Thomas's career and legacy are about asking the hard questions for many, many decades. She joined UPI in 1943. She became UPI's White House correspondent in 1961. What she accomplished was amazing and should not be disregarded. She spent 57 years reporting for UPI, and only began writing opinion columns for Hearst in 2000, at the age of 80.

Personally, I'm going to focus in my memories of her on what she accomplished in the first 80 years of her life. Because damn, what a fantastic contribution that lady made to America's free press and to women in journalism.

If heaven has a press corps, you know they've had a front row seat reserved for Ms. Thomas for a good long time. I imagine she's up there right now, asking God the tough questions.
posted by brina at 10:44 AM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:48 AM on July 20, 2013


Except for the whole anti-Semitic part (see the first and third "Previously" above)

See the second "Previously" for an example of her commitment to reporting the truth during the Iraq war.
posted by homunculus at 10:48 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find the interview Gooch cites appalling on several accounts. The author literally asks her if she's lost her faculties because of her age and she's expressing her anger. I don't like many of her responses but again, we're talking about someone 89/90 years old who starts crying in the interview.

Here's how the NY Times just described the incident:

But 16 months later, Ms. Thomas abruptly announced her retirement from Hearst amid an uproar over her assertion that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back where they belonged, perhaps Germany or Poland. Her remarks, made almost offhandedly days earlier at a White House event, set off a storm when a videotape was posted.

In her retirement announcement, Ms. Thomas, whose parents immigrated to the United States from what is now Lebanon, said that she deeply regretted her remarks and that they did not reflect her “heartfelt belief” that peace would come to the Middle East only when all parties embraced “mutual respect and tolerance.”

“May that day come soon,” she said.
posted by etaoin at 10:51 AM on July 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


.
posted by dbiedny at 10:52 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by baniak at 11:07 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by allthinky at 11:11 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by chunking express at 11:24 AM on July 20, 2013


If heaven has a press corps, you know they've had a front row seat reserved for Ms. Thomas for a good long time.

Unless of course...
posted by Freon at 11:29 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by glhaynes at 11:31 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by redbeard at 11:31 AM on July 20, 2013



posted by symbioid at 11:35 AM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by localroger at 11:53 AM on July 20, 2013


I notice that the link in the third "Previously" to Helen Thomas' controversial Playboy interview is no longer active. Here is a copy. If her incident with the rabbi left reasonable doubt as to whether Thomas was anti-Semitic or just "disagreeing with Israeli politics" this interview pretty clearly showed she belonged firmly in the former category.
posted by The Gooch at 1:00 PM on July 20 [1 favorite +][!]


This interview needs to be required reading for all of the uniformed people who are defending Helen Thomas by saying she was only criticizing Israel and not Jews. Helen Thomas is a textbook example of an anti-Semite.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 11:55 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


We are all poorer for her passing. :(

From the CNN link in the post:
One afternoon in October 2009, she targeted President Barack Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, during the daily briefing.

Health care reform was being debated at the time, and Thomas asked Gibbs every day whether a public option would be part of the package.

In the back-and-forth that ensued, Thomas said that she already had reached a conclusion but could not get a straight answer from the presidential spokesman.

"Then why do you keep asking me?" Gibbs inquired.

"Because I want your conscience to bother you," Thomas replied.

The room broke into laughter as Gibbs turned red.
That sums up her entire career quite well.

זכרונה לברכה

.
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wonder who is the Dean of College Deans
posted by thelonius at 12:02 PM on July 20, 2013


.

In 2000, when Thomas resigned from United Press International after it was bought by News World Communications, a company controlled by officials of the Unification Church...

So her religious intolerance was not limited to The Jews; in fact, she apparently preferred to be working for the "Jews who control the Media".

Of course her more awful beliefs gave the rest of the press corps the ability to brush off her most valid challenges to the status quo as "oh, that's just Helen". (And helps explain why they gave her vacated space in the press room to the Fox Propaganda Network... to much of the journalistic old guard, they're pretty much the same thing... and if you're going to have a token woman in the room, they'd much prefer one of the Fox Blondes.)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:05 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of my best memories of the Bush II administration were watching Helen and Russell Mokhiber needle Ari Fleischer with questions they knew he wouldn't answer in good faith.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:06 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This interview needs to be required reading for all of the uniformed people who are defending Helen Thomas by saying she was only criticizing Israel and not Jews. Helen Thomas is a textbook example of an anti-Semite.

Huh? I'm not at all seeing what you're seeing in that article. She's right.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:09 PM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by Token Meme at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2013


Huh? I'm not at all seeing what you're seeing in that article. She's right.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:09 PM on July 20 [+][!]


From the interview:

PLAYBOY: Let’s get to something else you said more recently. In a speech in Detroit last December, you told an Arab group, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.” Do you stand by that statement?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. I know it was horrendous, but I know it’s true. Tell me it’s not true and I’ll be happy to be contradicted. I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction.

PLAYBOY: That stereotype of Jewish control has been around for more than a century. Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 12:15 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's some more:

PLAYBOY: Do you begrudge people like Steven Spielberg? He created the Shoah Foundation to chronicle the life stories of Holocaust survivors. What’s your feeling about him?

THOMAS: There’s nothing wrong with remembering it, but why do we have to constantly remember?
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 12:16 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just goes on like this:

PLAYBOY: In America you’re talking about a relatively small community. Jews make up roughly two percent of the U.S. population. On a worldwide level, the percentage is well under one percent. Those numbers don’t exactly spell domination.

THOMAS: I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?

PLAYBOY: Yes.

THOMAS: That’s what I thought. Well, you know damn well they have power.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you have anything specific to contest about the claims she's making there? Is there not a powerful pro-Israel lobby? That'd be news to AIPAC.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you have anything specific to contest about the claims she's making there? Is there not a powerful pro-Israel lobby? That'd be news to AIPAC.

Are you seriously saying that "[Jews] own the White House" is not an anti-Semitic comment? I mean, I think on balance Helen Thomas's existence was good for the world, and I certainly don't think we should define a person solely by the things they say in their late 80s and 90s, but come on, this is not just "anti-Zionism" we're talking about here.
posted by dsfan at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


.
posted by LMGM at 12:39 PM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 12:41 PM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by wrapper at 12:45 PM on July 20, 2013


Are you seriously saying that "[Jews] own the White House" is not an anti-Semitic comment?

I see that as shorthand -- one she was somewhat manipulated into putting into simpler words than she'd probably normally use -- for "A powerful Zionist lobby has an inordinate amount of control over White House policy." Which is neither racist nor untrue. It's a pretty easily verified fact.

All Zionists are Jews but not all Jews are Zionists, so saying as shorthand "Jews own x" is not the same as saying "All Jews are part of a conspiracy that owns x." A lot of Jews are appalled at the way Israel has comported itself in Palestine.

I'd even go so far as to say not all Zionists are selfish racist assholes, but an awful lot of the ones driving Israeli policy seem to be. Having a homeland for the oft-maligned Jewish people is a fine idea, but if the price of that is bulldozing homes and building walls to starve people out, maybe it would be a better idea somewhere else.
posted by localroger at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I see that as shorthand -- one she was somewhat manipulated into putting into simpler words than she'd probably normally use -- for "A powerful Zionist lobby has an inordinate amount of control over White House policy." Which is neither racist nor untrue. It's a pretty easily verified fact.

All Zionists are Jews but not all Jews are Zionists, so saying as shorthand "Jews own x" is not the same as saying "All Jews are part of a conspiracy that owns x." A lot of Jews are appalled at the way Israel has comported itself in Palestine.


If she meant that Zionist and not Jewish, she wouldn't have asked "You’re Jewish, aren’t you?" in her statement. If she was "manipulated" into this, she was a deeply stupid person, which I doubt very much based on her life history.

This is straight-up anti-Semitism, and it's unbelievably depressing to see so many people defending it here (for what it is worth, not that it should matter, I am not Jewish).
posted by dsfan at 12:59 PM on July 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


A common, old fashioned anti Semite
posted by knoyers at 12:59 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are you seriously saying that "[Jews] own the White House" is not an anti-Semitic comment?

Why would I? She didn't even say that.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:01 PM on July 20, 2013


Why would I? She didn't even say that.

Yeah, she did. She absolutely, positively said that:
PLAYBOY: Let’s get to something else you said more recently. In a speech in Detroit last December, you told an Arab group, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.” Do you stand by that statement?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. I know it was horrendous, but I know it’s true. Tell me it’s not true and I’ll be happy to be contradicted. I’m just saying they’re using their power, and they have power in every direction.

PLAYBOY: That stereotype of Jewish control has been around for more than a century. Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country?

THOMAS: Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?

PLAYBOY: Well, for instance, explain the connection between Hollywood and what’s happening with the Palestinians.

THOMAS: Power over the White House, power over Congress.

PLAYBOY: By way of contributions?

THOMAS: Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control.

[...]

PLAYBOY: In America you’re talking about a relatively small community. Jews make up roughly two percent of the U.S. population. On a worldwide level, the percentage is well under one percent. Those numbers don’t exactly spell domination.

THOMAS: I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?
And yeah, it was vile and antisemitic.

This isn't "there's a strong Jewish lobby." This isn't "there's a strong Israel lobby." This is, "The Jews own Wall Street and the White House and Congress and Hollywood." It is unequivocally antisemitic.
posted by zarq at 1:08 PM on July 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Can't you guys just let it rest for 24 hours out of respect for the deceased?

RIP Helen Thomas.
posted by mrhappy at 1:18 PM on July 20, 2013 [9 favorites]




mrhappy: Can't you guys just let it rest for 24 hours out of respect for the deceased?

RIP Helen Thomas.


As someone who had previously thought Thomas one of the great figures of American journalism, I went into this thread expecting encomium after encomium (bar that incident back in 2010); that said, I happily cheered the death of Thatcher for reasons too numerous to mention, for mostly visceral, personal reasons. I'm not sure why I should now give Thomas the benefit of the doubt for her nakedly anti-Semitic "DA JOOZ RUN THE SHOW" nonsense, when I never gave Thatcher a pass for her odious reign.
posted by Len at 1:42 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Comparing the decisions and policies of a PM of a major economic power to a journalist who shared her views in an ill-advised way is...not really worth discussing, actually.
posted by planetesimal at 1:46 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by newdaddy at 1:47 PM on July 20, 2013


She looked almost exactly like my grandmother, so seeing her ask the tough questions at the White House was always a little weird for me.

.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:52 PM on July 20, 2013


planetesimal: Comparing the decisions and policies of a PM of a major economic power to a journalist who shared her views in an ill-advised way is...not really worth discussing, actually.

Good, because that wasn't what I was actually doing. What I was attempting to point out was that just because someone's died in the last three days, that doesn't give them an automatic pass for the noxious things they have said and/or done in their time, and there shouldn't be some arbitrary period – of 24 hours, or any other timeframe – before they can be criticised.

I mean I have a hell of a lot of respect for Thomas and what she accomplished over the past 60 years, but that respect does not mean I'm not going to ignore what she got wrong. The idea that we should have to wait a "respectable" amount of time before recognising her failings is bunk. (Likewise, the idea that I should have waited a certain amount of time after Thatcher's death before criticising her is also bunk.)
posted by Len at 1:56 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


to a journalist who shared her views in an ill-advised way is...not really worth discussing, actually.

It's not that she shared her views ill advisedly, it's that they were despicable and hateful
posted by knoyers at 1:58 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hadn't read the Playboy interview before and that certainly puts her in a different light than that Nesenoff ambush interview. I disagreed with some of what she said to Nesenoff but I didn't find it anti-semitic. But that Playboy interview Gooch found puts her in a new light, though the fact that she was 90 years old and crying after he's questioned whether she's got control of her faculties makes me wonder. I found the characterization of what she said to Nesenoff to be way way over the top. And the Howie Kurtz piece cited above, where he relies on Jeffrey Goldberg and Johan Goldberg as evidence that everyone thinks she's anti-semitic, to be contemptible.

Anyway, I stand by RIP for Helen. If she always was, or turned an anti-Semite in her dotage, well, I'm sorry that she did. It doesn't change her status as a pioneer of journalism.
posted by etaoin at 2:26 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


There is, indeed, a group of people Helen Thomas has hated since before I can remember -- long before, since she was doing world-class journalism before I was even born.

Helen Thomas hated tyrants and oppressors. She didn't care whose side they were on or what their cause was. She hated them all and called them on their bullshit with great consistency.

She has accordingly always had problems with the state of Israel and its proponents, not because they are undeserving of a safe and unmolested home but because of the way they chose to seize it from the people who were already living in the place they decided to make it. The campaign to paint Helen Thomas as an anti-semite is almost as old as I am and flows directly from Israeli state politics.

It's not a hard thing to get someone who has been attacked by a powerful ethnically identified group to slip and substitute the ethnicity for the group identity in comments. Maybe in her really old age she even got tired enough to just believe the obvious simple thing instead of keeping the more complicated truth front and center. Decades of conflict as age is stealing your edge will do that.

I don't believe for one second that Helen Thomas had a problem with Jews as an ethnicity or a culture. She had a very big problem with the state of Israel though. It's an easy and cheap form of slander to call someone who is calling Israel's shit anti-semitic. If you look at the whole of Helen Thomas' life's work the idea that she could harbor such a view of an ethnic group like the Jewish people is very obviously ridiculous. But if you are carrying the water for certain corrupt and mainfestly evil groups, then painting her up that way is an obvious strategy to counter the bullshit on which she has called you.
posted by localroger at 2:39 PM on July 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


just because someone's died in the last three days, that doesn't give them an automatic pass for the noxious things they have said and/or done in their time,

Nor should an angry retort to insults from an ideologue wipe out many decades of an illustrious career. Helen exaggerated the truth about a very powerful lobby, and of course zionists - who also include the (Christian) religious right and the neocons - could not let that stand. So they baited an 89 year old woman.

It's not that she shared her views ill advisedly, it's that they were despicable and hateful

Focusing on politically incorrect statements on the day the woman died after an exemplary half century of journalism? Sorry, that smacks of knee-jerk absolutism.
posted by tommyD at 2:54 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


And the Howie Kurtz piece cited above, where he relies on Jeffrey Goldberg and Johan Goldberg as evidence that everyone thinks she's anti-semitic, to be contemptible.

Both of whom were cheerleaders for the war in Iraq.
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by jonbro at 3:19 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never said that it is anti-Semitic to criticize Israel or US support of Israel. It most certainly is not. Many Israeli policies are in clear contravention of international law. I support efforts to promote and protect Palestinian human rights.

But the focus of this FPP is Helen Thomas, specifically, so the discussion is going to focus on her specific statements. Seriously, read the playboy interview posted above. Helen Thomas wasn't merely criticizing Israel for violating the Geneva Conventions (which is something that Israel is in fact doing). Helen Thomas was, among other things, criticizing American Jews for feeling sad about the Holocaust and establishing a Holocaust Memorial in the United States.

It's really concerning that defenders of Helen Thomas aren't getting this.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is, "The Jews own Wall Street and the White House and Congress and Hollywood."

That's not how quotation marks work.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:21 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


A problem is that absurd allegations of anti-Semitism are a frequent resort of one extreme in a vicious conflict, one that frequently justifies aggression as defense by appeal to a factually real history of persecution. That history is still factually present in actual anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and bigotry. Helen Thomas should have at least known how her views about Jews would be taken if she didn't mean to sound bigoted (and what sort of target she represented for critical attention to her views) and at best known that they were bigoted and vile before she uttered them.

Either way, she expressed them clearly enough, and often enough, and despite being challenged, and though bigotry is rampant from all sides, it can't be tolerated from anyone. Not even otherwise heroic figures.

Not conceding that Thomas' remarks were the real deal -- outright anti-Semitism -- weakens the case that some accusations of anti-Semitism are made in bad faith against legitimate critics of Israel's policies, for example, and that bigoted expressions of anti-Arab sentiments are widespread and widely tolerated by people who are quick to decry other forms of bigotry. No moral equivalence case suffices.

Great journalist, but clearly enough also an anti-Semite, and hardly the first to combine accomplishment with bigotry.

So at least this admirer of Helen Thomas (and sometimes sharp critic of Israel) gets it. There is no cause to sanctify her memory. I doubt she'd have wanted it anyway.
posted by spitbull at 3:34 PM on July 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


And just to be really clear, I am saying the accusation against HT is precisely not the usual absurd talking point smear version.
posted by spitbull at 3:40 PM on July 20, 2013


I hear Helen Thomas died. She held the feet of ten presidents to the fire during an exemplary 60-year career of tough-minded journalism that helped open the doors of that profession to women. Isn't that something to be remembered for?
posted by tommyD at 3:49 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's an easy and cheap form of slander to call someone who is calling Israel's shit anti-semitic.

The majority of the time when someone is castigated as an anti-semite for comments they have made regarding Israel and its foreign and domestic policies, it is an unreasonable accusation. This is not one of those times.
posted by elizardbits at 3:57 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


All Zionists are Jews

Except when they're fundamentalist Christians.
posted by acb at 4:14 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry to read of her anti-Semitism. It mars her reputation. I'll miss her goading of US Presidents.
.
posted by theora55 at 4:15 PM on July 20, 2013


I don't believe for one second that Helen Thomas had a problem with Jews as an ethnicity or a culture.

Go back and read the Playboy interview. Then tell us you still don't believe that Thomas had a problem with Jews.
posted by acb at 4:18 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's really concerning that defenders of Helen Thomas aren't getting this.

I'm not sure who specifically you mean but let me reiterate:

I found the accusations of anti-semitism after the Nesenoff video to be absurd, even a deliberate effort to squelch someone who had opposed Bush and the neocons. I do not think the piling on that occurred and the quotes from rightwing writers to be accident.

If indeed she said everything Playboy says she said, that's more clearly anti-semitism at work. But I'll say again, for the third time. 90 years old. Upset at the interviewer's questions questioning her mental abilities at that point. Tired after a lifetime of fighting for her views.
posted by etaoin at 4:34 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


[It would be lovely if people maintained a minimum of civility when expressing their opinions. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:51 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by tychotesla at 4:55 PM on July 20, 2013


Holy fucking shit, I haven't read the Playboy interview before. "You're Jewish, aren't you? ... That's what I thought." That's old school, bone chilling, Protocols of the Elders of Zion antisemitism. This is not the garden variety double standards againt Israel being dismissed in this thread. This is real vile shit people (thankfully) dont get away with anymore.
posted by gertzedek at 5:57 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


"But I'll say again, for the third time. 90 years old. Upset at the interviewer's questions questioning her mental abilities at that point. Tired after a lifetime of fighting for her views."

Are you willing to cut Paula Deen the same slack? I'm really curious about your tolerance to intolerance.
posted by gertzedek at 5:59 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Go back and read the Playboy interview. Then tell us you still don't believe that Thomas had a problem with Jews.

OK, I've done so.

Helen Thomas didn't have a problem with the Jews.

She had a problem with certain very prominent Jews and the organizations they founded and led.

When you are 90 years old you do better at making that distinction when the interviewer is trolling you.
posted by localroger at 6:07 PM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Gertzedek, I'm not tolerating the words; I'm saying that when you're 90 years old and someone has just challenged your mental abilities and you're crying, you may say harsher things than you intend. I don't know that to be the case; she may have a lifetime of horrible comments, a history, as Paula Deen has, of treating people like crap. I just don' that to be true. And under the circumstances of age/mental condition/emotionalism, I'm simply saying that those MAY have been factors. The comments are reprehensible, regardless of the circumstances.I agree with the note above, "are you a Jew?" Gave me the same chills.
posted by etaoin at 6:42 PM on July 20, 2013


Her comments, and the mindset that made them possible even in the weakest of moments, are reprehensible, but they do not negate her actions in the name of honest journalism and honest government, even when surrounded by a room of 'just-getting-along' reporters. And her professional actions were solidly focused on that, not in doing exposés of "Jewish Influence". So I can separate the two, just like you should be able to separate Paula Deen's racial attitudes and her success as a lobbyist for high-fat foods.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:50 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


She had a problem with certain very prominent Jews and the organizations they founded and led.

No, she thought we ran Hollywood. And controlled the media. Wall Street. And ran the White House. And Congress. She wasn't baited into saying any of it, either.

That's standard antisemitic Protocols bullshit. It goes far further than antizionism. Antizionism is not automatically antisemitism. Saying Jews run the White House, Congress, Hollywood, Wall Street and the media, and hold all the power in this country is unquestionably antisemitic conspiracy theory bullshit.

I defended her on Mefi after the rabbilive incident. Gave her the benefit of the doubt. The Playboy interview was disturbing, disillusioning and upsetting.
posted by zarq at 7:01 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


she left her homeland, (2) that it was her homeland that killed off soime 6 million people and in fact helped bring about the new state of Israel. Helen, there were Jews living in Israel well before there was a state of Israel.
Can someone please tell me why they're referring to her "homeland" as if it were Germany when a. she was born in Kentucky b. her Greek Orthodox parents immigrated from Lebanon.
posted by etaoin at 7:04 PM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Perhaps Thomas' statements were informed by the overwhelming pro-Israel bias in the US mainstream media.
posted by planetesimal at 7:34 PM on July 20, 2013


[This needs to not become a debate on Zionism in general, folks. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:47 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps Thomas' statements were informed by the overwhelming pro-Israel bias in the US mainstream media.

Sort of like how other racist statements are informed by racist portrayals of minorities in the US mainstream media?
posted by elizardbits at 8:27 PM on July 20, 2013


It's not a hard thing to get someone who has been attacked by a powerful ethnically identified group to slip and substitute the ethnicity for the group identity in comments.

surprise you have just defined racism and the excuses made for exhibiting it
posted by elizardbits at 8:28 PM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


You can equivocate, sure.
posted by planetesimal at 8:29 PM on July 20, 2013


This is a recording of an August, 2011 telephone interview between David Rappaport and Helen Thomas, placing it about 5 months after the Playboy one was published.

She certainly was unapologetically Anti-Israel. Sadly, I think that at least in that Playboy interview, Helen Thomas clearly comes across as anti-Semitic as well. Her comments and opinion about the political influence Israel has in this country seem reasonable enough on the surface, but when taken along with everything else she said in that Playboy piece, her prejudice comes through loud and clear.

Helen Thomas was a tenacious journalist, and apparently difficult to avoid. In addition to grilling Presidents--she said that George W. Bush was by far the worst to date--she fought for women in journalism, even convincing JFK to boycott the White House Correspondents Dinner until women were finally allowed to attend in 1962. Her interviews are full of contradictions; startling glimpses into the White House dropped casually into the conversation right alongside scathing criticisms of foreign policy and the soft stuff passing itself off as journalism today.

Some of the most interesting stuff I've read about her today:

She was very strongly anti-war and considered JFK one of the best Presidents, because he had himself faught in a war and understood, she felt, the reality better because of it (as evidenced by his formation of the Peace Corps).

She says JFK appointed his brother, Bobby, to "give him training" for thr future Presidency. She remembers seeing Jackie, her pink dress still covered in blood, after JFK was shot.

She, aling with two other journalists, went to China with Nixon, and was astounded when she herself became part of the news story--everyone wanted to know the tiniest details. She liked working with Nixon's Press Secretary; he quit the same day Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon. She felt sorry for "Gerry" Bush, who in her opinion was not ready to replace Nixon. says she and the rest of the press were aware that Barbara Bush had a problem with her drinking.

She repeatedly questioned George W. Bush on his justification for invading Iraq. She says "why" is her favorite question, and what she wants as her epitaph. She supported Obama initially but lost faith in his Presidency when he did not immediately end the wars or close down Guantanamo. She feels we are ready for a gay President. She wonders where all the liberals went.

She did not care for Ari Fleischer, or George Stephanapolous before him. She was surprised anyone considered Stephanopolous qualified to be a journalist. She did not watch Fox News, but then she rarely watched any news, preferring newspaper to television or the internet. She feels people growing up today are short-changed because we are given less detail from these venues than the printed press; we don't know the full stories any more.

After "retiring" (she says bluntly that she was actually fired) from the White House beat, she worked up until 2012 as a journalist for the Falls Church News, under an openly gay editor who also considered her a close friend. Finally, poor health (she was on dialysis) forced her to quit for good in 2012.
posted by misha at 8:50 PM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think you mean Gerald and Betty Ford, no ?
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on July 20, 2013


She felt sorry for "Gerry" Bush, who in her opinion was not ready to replace Nixon. says she and the rest of the press were aware that Barbara Bush had a problem with her drinking.

You mean Ford. Gerald Ford, Betty Ford. Three presidents before Bush.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't you guys just let it rest for 24 hours out of respect for the deceased?

Listen, I love Helen Thomas probably more than most, and I find it sad that her legacy is tarnished by one impulsive comment, but you can't deny she made it. Also, I don't believe the death of a person means they get a pass for a day. My opinion of her last week is the same as today's. Wonderful smart funny admirable inspirational woman that stuck her foot in her mouth. I ask you, "Who cares about that?" I'm sure some do, but if I held every stupid thing every person ever said against them I would expect others to do the same for me. I can't withstand that kind of scrutiny. Most people can't, and those that can are pretty fucking boring.

RIP Helen Thomas. You will be missed. I wish you'd outlived Rupert Murdoch.

-30-
posted by cjorgensen at 8:56 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


she fought for women in journalism, even convincing JFK to boycott the White House Correspondents Dinner until women were finally allowed to attend in 1962

Man, that would've made a great West Wing episode.
posted by Sara C. at 9:04 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




Gah. Here's the first video from that page.
posted by homunculus at 10:12 PM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:13 PM on July 20, 2013


Sorry, obviously, yeah, Gerald Ford and Betty Ford. Typing wihen my cat stepped on my chest and lost my train of thought back there!
posted by misha at 11:54 PM on July 20, 2013


.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:12 AM on July 21, 2013


.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:32 AM on July 21, 2013


Here's a post by someone who claims that he was responsible for the release of the video that led to Helen Thomas' departure. It includes his thoughts on her subsequent statements which were, in my opinion, even more damning.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 AM on July 21, 2013


Meta
posted by zarq at 4:24 AM on July 21, 2013


I think if we could get just one or two more good comments on this, we could probably wrap the I/P debate up before lunch. RIGHT?

(sigh)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:18 AM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]




Her comments, and the mindset that made them possible even in the weakest of moments, are reprehensible, but they do not negate her actions in the name of honest journalism and honest government, even when surrounded by a room of 'just-getting-along' reporters.

PEOPLE ARE COMPLEX. You cannot whitewash Helen Thomas' opinions any more than you can do so with H.P. Lovecraft's.

BUT --

If you're going to excommunicate people because they have bad views in their past, or even present, you're going to find you have a lot less allies than you had going in. And, this is an OBIT THREAD, about someone who had a HELL of a lot more in the positive column than many other people who we've given a customary period of grace time to in their obit threads. And she was very very very old when she said those things.

There is an eternity of time now in which to make a FPP about the Playboy article. There is only one obit thread.
posted by JHarris at 1:21 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


A comment today from the tv/movie-comedy writer/baseball-sportscaster Ken Levine:
Sorry to hear of the passing of longtime White House correspondent, Helen Thomas. She helped arrange press credentials for my partner and I to join the corps in 1980 when we were doing an ABC pilot about the White House Press Corps. She was lovely and classy and what a trailblazer for women.
Didn't she know Ken Levine and David Isaacs were Jewish? Couldn't she have just told them to go ask for help from their friends who were running the Media and the White House?

It gets complicated...
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:51 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


She may not have known they were Jewish. From the Playboy interview:
THOMAS: [Interrupts] Did a Jew write this? [Editor’s note: The writer is Jeffrey Goldberg.]

and further on:

THOMAS: I get where you’re leading with this. You know damn well the power they have. It isn’t the two percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?

PLAYBOY: Yes.

THOMAS: That’s what I thought.
So she had difficulty identifying Jews, or at least pretended to do so for rhetorical effect. But racists are often perfectly pleasant to individual members of the despised ethnicity; accounts of this are so commonplace that they're hardly even worth noticing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:57 PM on July 21, 2013


JHarris: "There is an eternity of time now in which to make a FPP about the Playboy article. There is only one obit thread."

There was an FPP. I made it when the article came out, and it spawned a lengthy thread. It's linked in this post, under the third 'previously.'

And, this is an OBIT THREAD, about someone who had a HELL of a lot more in the positive column than many other people who we've given a customary period of grace time to in their obit threads.

For clarity's sake, there is no 'grace period' for people who die on Mefi. The mods have discussed this in Meta several times, including this weekend about this very thread. Per LobsterMitten: "We still want people to be at least minimally decent, though stating facts about their views and their effects in the world is absolutely fair game."

HT said these things and we can discuss 'em civilly. At least a couple of comments that seemed 'indecent' to the mods have already been deleted from this thread.

And she was very very very old when she said those things.

Sorry. Not gonna give her a pass for hating Jews because she was elderly, you know? Also, she knew what she was saying. In the Playboy thread I said, "She has been writing about oppressed peoples for decades. She quite literally had a front seat at the center of power from which much of modern history emanated. She's also well aware --intimately aware -- of the histories of the Jewish people, of Israel and the Palestinians and is capable of placing that into reasonable perspective. With this interview, she's confirmed and reinforced the worst assumptions that everyone made about her original comments. She is coherent throughout the rest of the interview, and does not seem to have taken leave of her faculties at any point throughout."

Still holds true.
posted by zarq at 7:50 AM on July 22, 2013


What amazed me in college, was to learn the trope of "The Jews have the power and own everything" goes back before Shakespeare.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2013


RIP.

I won't defend her remarks, nor deny she was anti-Semitic.

This may be an awful thing to say, but I wish she had died a few years earlier; specifically before she made any of those anti-Semitic remarks. This would (obviously) be a very different obit thread if it were made before those remarks. We'd be discussing her trailblazing political reporting, her contributions to journalism, her opening of doors for women around the world. It would be a thread of near-universal respect; the controversy that may have appeared would be for her consistent progressive perspectives and her anti-war reporting (indeed, I think many folks on the right were thrilled when a hero of the left could be universally despised - her remarks caused nearly everyone to dissociate with her, and understandably so).

What I find odd about her antisemitism (i'm not denying it was real, just confused by it), was that it was revealed near the end of her life. I'm used to racists having that reputation early in life or throughout their life, often trying to disassociate themselves from their racist pasts (see: David Duke).

Helen didn't seem afraid to make controversial, unpopular statements through her career - I would have imagined that her racism would have been evident a long time ago.

It is a tragedy to me that her racism will be her legacy (at least if this thread is anything to go by), and not the lifelong positive contributions she made towards reporting. None of this is meant to deny the intent of her statements or to pretend that she didn't express antisemitic statements.
posted by el io at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2013


The nation of Israel, and the political lobby that supports it, is not Jewishness. Zionism as a political philosophy is not Jewishness.

She was a pioneering journalist, but her statements about Jewish control of the media and the US political process were undeniably, categorically racist. By conflating Zionism, the nation-state of Israel, and ethnic Jewishness, Helen Thomas aided the political cause that she hated.

It's undeniable that the nation-state of Israel is a sacred cow in the United States. Politicians -- literally -- face more real penalty for proposing cuts to Israel's military aid than for proposing cuts to our own nation's antipoverty efforts.

The idea that criticizing the nation-state of Israel, and the political ideology of Zionism, is implicitly antisemetic is smokescreen. But to critique those things and confront the smokescreen, you have to carefully and scrupulously distinguish between "Jewishness" and "Zionism," between "Jewishness" and "Israeli policy and law." Helen Thomas' comments didn't do that, and as such they're no different than a critique of American Materialism that conflates "blackness" with "gang culture."

She was a pioneer, but her views on this issue were undeniably racist. It's a complex disappointment.
posted by verb at 10:51 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


el io, I wonder if part of it isn't how talking about people who are different from oneself has changed over the last few decades. Also the general lack of tolerance in wider society for any kind of -ism.

It's hard to notice it in the moment -- like that frogs in warm water thing, I guess -- but things have really changed, and changed for the better, in the last 20-ish years.

I feel like, in 1990, if an eminent 80+ year old person casually said the things Helen Thomas said to a younger fellow journalist, the journalist in question would have been like, "eek, wow, I had no idea Helen Thomas was this anti-semitic!", and probably let it die. Because "This Person Is A Bigot" wasn't really a story. But in 2010, suddenly that is ABSOLUTELY a story. Which I think is a good thing.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on July 22, 2013


Don't Sanitize Helen Thomas's Toxic Prejudices
I understand the tributes to Thomas that have been issued after her death was announced. She was a pioneer in the White House press room, and she carved a path through Washington journalism that was followed by many other women, including journalists of much greater talent and probity. And I understand why obituary writers feel the need to capture her in her fullness. But I don't think her anti-Semitism should be treated as an afterthought, as it has been.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2013


Sara C: You may be right, but I would have sort of expected that stories would have come out of the woodwork from people - "oh yeah, she said something similar to me a dozen plus years ago." I could be wrong, but that seems to be how stories of awfulness often unfold.

I just wish american society had a similar intolerance towards anti-Islamic sentiment (which largely seems to get a free pass - even members of congress can get away with expressing awful sentiments towards 1.6 billion plus people).
posted by el io at 11:36 AM on July 22, 2013


I think Helen Thomas is low profile enough that there probably aren't publicly accessible rumors swirling around about her in that way. It's very possible that it was "known". The likelihood that you or I would have access to those kinds of rumors seems a little far-fetched. She's not exactly a household name, as a person.
posted by Sara C. at 11:46 AM on July 22, 2013


Sara C.: You may very well be right.... Although I certainly knew who she was well before her awful remarks, I will admit I'm probably not representative of the populace as a whole.
posted by el io at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2013


Great anecdote about her from USA Today:
One event that I will never forget occurred in 1981, when we covered a meeting of President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at an economic summit in Ottawa, Canada. Helen shouted out a tough question to Thatcher about how her economic austerity policies were causing suffering among working-class Brits.

A clearly offended Thatcher, addressing Helen as "Dearie," dismissed the question as inappropriate for that forum.

"My, my, aren't we feeling our oats today," Helen retorted.

A taken-aback Thatcher turned to Reagan to ask, "Who is that woman?" Reagan replied with a grin, "Oh, that's Helen."
Matthew Rosza / The Complicated Legacy Of Helen Thomas:
The answer, I suspect, is to remember that homo sapiens are complex animals. Despite the stringent moral demands made of us by the various social institutions which exist in the times we inhabit, each of us possesses numerous dimensions — some of them light, some of them dark, most of them neutral, and more than a few at odds with each other. Of course, there isn't anything inherently contradictory about being a great journalist and a Jew-hater....

But these aren't just bits of useless trivia — they reveal the inner quality of an individual soul. Since we like to admire souls as well as minds, the discovery that someone's dark side plunged to such loathsome depths is always heartbreaking. At the same time, it should never obscure the clarity with which we perceive those who have contributed greatly to our world before shuffling off this mortal coil.

posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


misha: " Helen Thomas was a tenacious journalist, and apparently difficult to avoid. In addition to grilling Presidents--she said that George W. Bush was by far the worst to date--she fought for women in journalism, even convincing JFK to boycott the White House Correspondents Dinner until women were finally allowed to attend in 1962. Her interviews are full of contradictions; startling glimpses into the White House dropped casually into the conversation right alongside scathing criticisms of foreign policy and the soft stuff passing itself off as journalism today."

When you look at her entire career, the question that comes up again and again is "what are the true roles and responsibilities of a free press in our democracy?"

We all saw what happened during the years after 9/11 when the press and specifically the WH Press Corps refused to question our leaders effectively, question what they were being told or even investigate stories. There is a distinct possibility that if they had done their jobs the way their predecessors had, the second Iraq War might not have even happened, and the various depredations of the Cheney administration either might not have come to pass or might have been cut short earlier. We have a free press. When they do their jobs, they act as a brake on those in power. A reminder that our leaders can't and shouldn't act unilaterally, but remain responsible to the people they represent.

Thomas' career is a clear example of this. Oh, she never took down a President. But she did ask questions of politicians that no one else would have dared to broach. In doing so she raised public awareness of issues and problems that would otherwise have remained hidden or unexamined. . She recognized her role as a journalist member of the Corps was not to be a sycophant, but to ask questions as a representative of the masses. We need more journalists to follow in her footsteps. And despite what happened, that's how I think many of us would prefer to remember her.
posted by zarq at 1:04 PM on July 22, 2013


« Older The World's End   |   Alas Smith Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post