As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Helen Thomas, RIP

Helen Thomas was good to me. For a long time I liked and admired her.

When I first arrived to cover the White House in 1997, I found myself suddenly surrounded by famous journalists. A few had attitudes. Most were polite but basically busy and unfriendly to a new member of the beat who didn’t work for one of the major news organizations.

And then there were a few without any pretense at all who were willing to deal with anyone as just another human being who might be nice to talk to. Sam Donaldson of ABC. Bill Plante of CBS. John Palmer of NBC. And yes, Helen.

She wasn’t warm or grandmotherly. But she wasn’t cold and direct either. At the time I met her, she was still a busy woman, leading the White House team for United Press International. She was friendly, considerate, and, if she had a moment, she listened to what you had to say. I think she probably offered some words of encouragement to me too.

Sitting in the front row of the briefing room, she was everything we see too little of now. Each new press secretary got a Helen hazing on their first day, and she barely let up afterward. She slung tough questions fearlessly, and let the press secretaries know when they were dodging.

Most reporters, especially today, pose timid little queries hoping the press secretary will be charitable with a morsel of information for them to nibble on and write a story off of.

She was a liberal, I suspected – before she was open about it – but you hardly knew it. She skewered the Clinton people mercilessly. Even, occasionally – long after she came out as a lefty – the Obama flacks too.

Have a look at one of her final moments of glory.

As the Bush administration got underway, Helen had left UPI and begun as a columnist. Armed with her opinions, she eventually became something of a crank, lobbing predictable demands and criticisms at the press secretary.

Everyone knew not to get too close to her in the press room, lest you be cornered and subject to a barrage of obloquy, slander, and invective directed at Bush through you.

One knew always, from the slant of her questions, that she was pro-Palestinian. But one didn’t know until that day just over three years ago, in an interview on the White House driveway with Rabbi David Nesenoff of, that she was anti-semitic.

Nesenoff: “Any comments on Israel We’re asking everybody today?

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine… Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland’s.”

Nesenoff: “So where should they go? What should they do?”

“They should go home. Poland Germany, and America, and everywhere else. Why push people out who live there for centuries, see?.

Nesenoff: Are you familiar with the history of that region?

“Very much. I’m of Arab background.”

Here’s the video:

Most veteran Washington journalists are lamenting, I can tell you, that a storied journalism career in which an intrepid reporter held power to account and opened doors closed in the profession to woman should now be characterized as much by this awful coda as anything.

Well, a few things about that.

What happened made me terribly sad and disappointed too, especially as a Jew who felt warmly to her. But I don’t lament that her anti-semitism now gets equal billing with the rest of it.

First of all, if she had said something racist – forget it, there would have been no one in Washington rallying to her defense. Anti-semitism is a little less provocative, apparently.

And she didn’t just make some joke or expression of bias. She suggested, at best, callousness toward the notion that Jews would be returned to the ovens of Germany and Poland and roasted into ashes.

After expressing “regret” – but not apologizing – she retired and went on to in other fora to proclaim that the Jews controlled the Hollywood, the White House, Wall Street, and so forth. As if Jews get together at some secret synagogue on Shabbat to map out their tyranny for the rest of the week. Oh, and drink the blood of Palestinian children.

Helen turned out to be a deeply angry person with plenty of hatred in her heart. She kept it in check until she was too old to worry about appearances.

I doubt she would be very concerned about the asterisk that will forever be next to her name. She’d take the charge of anti-semitism if it would help get out the “truth” about what she thinks is the persecution of Palestinians by the Jews.

Which is exactly the problem with Helen.

23 Responses to Helen Thomas, RIP

  1. Without forgiving the anti semitism and anger of Helen Thomas at the end of her years, she did not indulge that while she reported in the WH Press Pool. I suggest that there are many in the media today who have allowed themselves to be co opted by this Administration so that they no longer report or seek the truth for the American public. They distort, bury, and dismiss the facts. They report what they are told to report and they choose to do so. To me, there is a very fine line that divides Helen Thomas from the people in the liberal media and who might judge her.

    And I agree, that had Helen Thomas been a racist she would be excoriated mercilessly. Because that is the Big Lie of the Obama Regime. It is their weapon.

  2. “Everyone knew not to get too close to her in the press room, lest you be cornered and subject to a barrage of obloquy, slander, and invective directed at Bush through you.”

    Keith, you made me hit the dictionary ‘obloguy’. No one got too close to her for good reason!

  3. I have a feeling a lot more people in the public eye think that way than we know. It seems as if anti-semitism is no biggie anymore, just like the IRS can harass Tea Partiers as long as it’s not Leftists. Kristallnacht all over again, IMHO.

    • There seems to have been a sea change without anyone noticing when it began. There was a time when almost all politicians never spoke a word against Israel, but today many on the left have given their support to the Arabs and their short change to Israel. We know why Obama does, but Madame Secretary too seemed to slight our traditional (imho only) ally in the Middle East. The World War Two generation is passing, and maybe the politicians cynically think that there is nothing to be gained from remembering what happened.

      • today many on the left have given their support to the Arabs and their short change to Israel.

        satan always overplays his hand.

        To Abram:

        I will bless those who bless you,
        And I will curse him who curses you;
        And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

        Genesis 12:3

        Helen Thomas chose cursing. Eternity is not kind to Jew-haters.

  4. It’s too bad Helen wasn’t a few years younger and so loose-lipped when Obama appeared on the scene. She could have finished up her career in a blaze of glory and commendations – maybe the Medal of Freedom – from the man who was in perfect lock-step with her when it came to Jews and George Bush. But as you said, Keith, the asterisk would not matter if she could only have spread the ‘truth’. Working with Helen must have been quite an experience, though. When she was good – she was very good; when she was bad…well, she was horrid.

    • There was a little girl who had a little curl
      Right in the middle of her forehead;
      When she was good, she was very, very good,
      And when she was bad she was horrid.

      We said this every night with my Mom.

  5. As someone who earned a reputation and a living from the words and what they mean, she seemed so oblivious to what she was saying about the Israelis and how it would seem to others.
    Your gentlemanly excusing of her expose’ of her hatred and bias because she no longer cared about her reputation isn’t the whole story.
    Old people don’t become stupid, or mean, or biased; stupid, mean, biased people get old. She was that way all her life, but most people didn’t see or hear it.

    Thanks for the background on life in the WH. It was very interesting.

    • I agree with you, srdem, that whatever’s in people in old age is there all along. When I was a nursing student ages ago, we were taught that in a geriatric unit. I think people’s personalities actually crystallize in old age.

      • Sadly, there’s no doubt anymore that he has used his Repub resistration to hide his liberal, progressive self.

        When he returned from VietNam, then ditched his long-suffering wife for the daughter of the most influential family* (next to the Goldwater clan) in Arizona, he had no choice but to walk and talk like a Repub for any chance in government.
        Over the years, the mask has slipped away until he sounds like any Dem in Congress.

        *The Hensley family is not just the largest distributor of Budweiser beer in Arizona, but the ONLY one. They are the 3rd largest distibutor of alcohol in the US!
        Yes, we have/had political corruption, bought and paid for politicians here. Still do.

        • Speaking of ditching his first wife, I was appalled at the way he treats his second wife, Cindy. During the ’08 campaign he barely acknowledged her presence. I felt so sorry for her and it really turned me against him. He’s a mean little man, IMO.

  6. I think it’s interesting that certain libs think we should turn over all our foreign policy to the UN, but fail to recognize it was that very UN which authorized Israeli sovereignty in 1948. (Which of course only restored the historic order of things, the Jews having occupied Israel for for years than the Palestinians since God cleared out the minor tribes back in Jeremiah’s day.)

    • The UN is no longer a body of western thinking nations. You only have to look at the list and worse, what countries have sat on the UNRC.

  7. For some reason this made me think of Chris Matthews, not Helen. He was never really a journalist, but tries to play one on TV now.. But I wonder if he ever regrets some of his idiotic statements–if he sees how low he has gone. Just a thought.