Saturday, July 20, 2013

Helen Thomas Is Dead at 92

 Helen Thomas and me at the same event on the South Lawn of the White House in 1989. She always got the front row

The legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas died today at her home in Washington. She was 92. My first gut -- on Twitter and Facebook, natch -- was to make a jab at her eye-raising -- if not entirely anti-Semitic -- comments that essentially ended her career a few years ago, at a time when most people's careers would have been over 20 years beforehand.

I did so via my phone, but was eager to see how high up in her NYT obit the incident was played.  Was later able to read the obit and got my answer: Seventh graf.
... 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.
I'm not one of those people who thinks Israel can do no wrong, but come on! Some seem to think my snark was out of line, but I'm not so sure. I did always admire her moxy and was thrilled to mingle with her at a Marlin Fitzwater press briefing while interning on Capitol Hill during the first Bush administration, which led to an invitation to a party on the South Lawn for the newly appointed (and first ever) secretary of veterans affairs. Although this might not be fair -- you didn't have to have lived through Nazi Germany to feel passionately about the Holocaust -- but I feel like I'd have had more sympathy for her if she'd grown up in the Middle East. But as a Kentucky-born Detroit resident, her attitude seemed to reflect everything that is wrong with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I'd like to think none of us will  be remembered for the worst moment of our lives. But when it seems to reveal something about you that you were likely hiding all along, isn't it really just reporting the truth?

RIP, Helen.


rob clemenz @ said...

You are bold and forthright and honest. That's what makes you so good. Or, as Martina might say, "too good." Keep on writing!

Anonymous said...

"She was especially rough on former President George W. Bush, who in 2003 she described as the "worst president ever," and the Iraq war, which she felt the media had abetted by not challenging Bush strongly enough on it."

She was shunned to the back seats in the White House press room after hounding Bush for an answer.

what was your position on iraq, ken?

Kenneth M. Walsh said...


I was 100 percent against it from day one.Never made any sense. I lived in NYC on 9/11 and a friend was killed on the plane into the Pentagon. I thought the Iraq War was completely taking the eye off the enemy.

Larry said...

People make mistakes and their lives shouldn't be defined by them. But when you give voice to clearly what appears to be a prejudice you've been able to hide for some time (see: Deen, Paula or Gibson, Mel), it is a pretty big deal. I certainly admired Helen Thomas for her amazing career but she went down more than a few pegs in my mind after this incident.

irisgirl said...

When I learned of her demise, I also
immediately thought of her anti-Jewish comment, and was outraged all over again. And I agree that "off-the-cuff" remarks generally reflect a person's true feelings.

Craig Rasmussen said...

It's not prejudice to be against the apartheid treatment of a people who have had their land and lives taken from them. I believe her, as is my, frustration is with the way we support such a horrible government and don't hold them accountable for their actions. I know many, many people who go to Gaza to provide medical treatment and the conditions there are HORRIBLE and the way the Palestinians are treated by the Israeli border guards is disgusting. We'd never stand for that in the US and shouldn't aid a country that does it.

I wish the rabid pro-Israeli lobby in the US would be so outraged at how the land was stolen from Hawaiians and other native cultures and demand that it all be given back to them immediately and without question.

Justice is justice. It was right to help after the WWII, and now it's right to help the farmers and other who have been robbed of their land and ability to support themselves and their families. When you see how the security wall was set up to destroy orchards you know that it wasn't just for security, it was to destroy economic viability as well. That's deplorable.

And we in the US shouldn't stand for it, nor should we financially support it. Wrong is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Yea, you're a class act, Kennith.


Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@Craig: I don't really disagree with what you're saying. But telling Jews to "go back" to where they came from -- you know, because they WANTED to leave their homes in the first place -- sounds about as logical as telling blacks to get out of America and "go back" to where they came from, no?

Craig rasmussen said...

Agreed. There are a few major differences, and I think in frustration people say things they may not mean, or in a way that it comes out. She was savvy enough not to get mired in a huge discussion and make a bad comment worse. So we will never know exactly what she felt and I think it's wrong to think the absolute worst interpretation just because it fuels a point of view. She had a gazillion year career, was the only reporter challenging the President at a time that challenge was necessary and certain people will focus on one statement to further their agenda. That's what's wrong with our country in a broad way. We are focused on the FLA and not UPI!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin