Helen Thomas. (AP Photo)
Helen Thomas, who set standards and records for covering US presidents, has died. The legendary White House correspondent was 92.
It was sad to see her final years mired in controversy after her ill-spoken comments (at the age of 88) sharply critical of Israel led to her forced retirement. Her views on brutal treatment of Palestinians, and unbalanced media and DC treatment of them, were not wrong, of course, if poorly stated.
Katrina vanden Heuvel put it this way: “Her remarks were offensive, but considering her journalistic moxie and courage over many decades—a sharp contrast to the despicable deeds committed by so many littering the Washington political scene—isn’t there room for someone who made a mistake, apologized for it and wants to continue speaking truth to power and asking tough questions?”
It can not be overlooked that she was among the very few reporters to strongly question Bush’s Iraq invasion—to the extent he later refused to call on her at most press conferences. She was also featured, you may recall, in the classic Stephen Colbert routine for White House Correspondents’ dinner. I met her at the the 2004 GOP convention in NYC off the floor and we had a nice chat.
Here she is being interviewed by Amy Goodman in 2009 as Obama was about to take office:
AMY GOODMAN: Do you expect to see a change of policy, for example, on Israel and the Occupied Territories?
HELEN THOMAS: No, I don’t.
AMY GOODMAN: Why not?
HELEN THOMAS: Because I think that Obama, during the campaign, made many promises, as every president, potential president does to Israel, that they seem somehow bounded by their promises, promises to uphold all Israeli goals.
I don’t see how the US can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death. They control the checkpoints. They control the arrivals and departures, supplies and people. And the Americans—President Bush has remained silent to that suffering. He has blocked by a veto at the UN any stoppage of the warfare, and he continues to supply Israel.
Challenging Bush on Iraq below. Other vids at YouTube show her very early and strongly probing Bush-era illegal wiretapping, torture, and more.