Helen Thomas has been covering the White House for half a century. Hers was a respected career filled with stature and high on esteem.
In a few gruesome seconds, she just about undid all of it.
Thomas, 89, has retired. Effective immediately. It’s what happens when you’re unmasked.
It’s like one of those scenes from “Mission: Impossible”—the ones where an undercover dude from IMF dramatically rips a prosthetic mask from his face, revealing that he isn’t a 66-year-old banker, after all—but rather a 37-year-old secret agent.
Thomas, the reporter from Hearst Corporation who began covering the White House when John F. Kennedy had just moved in, took off her mask in a video unearthed on YouTube late last week.
She, essentially, called for all the Jews to leave Palestine and return to Germany, Poland, and the United States.
“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said to RabbiLive.com.
Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, called for her firing, saying, “Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.”
Now, it’s not as bad for Thomas to hold these views as the men she’s covered over the years, but for someone who’s sat up front in the White House press room for decades and whose charge it is to provide fair reporting and journalistic professionalism, this kind of stuff can’t go unchecked.
Here’s more Lanny Davis (and I agree with him): “If she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa, what would the White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials—much less a privileged honorary seat?”
Hard to make the distinction between the two examples—one real, one hypothetical—isn’t it? Maybe damn near impossible.
Thomas issued the old “close the barn doors after the horses are out” apology, but she should have saved her breath. There was no making this better.
Thomas and President Clinton
Thomas is a Detroit girl—sort of.
She was born in Kentucky, but grew up in Motown, graduating from Wayne State University way back in 1942. She’s been covering politics in Washington for about 60 years, eventually getting the White House beat in 1960.
But now she’s unmasked.
Now she shows us for who she really was/is, and it’s not becoming.
It’s ironic that Thomas’s controversy should have exploded the same week as the 42nd anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.
For it was RFK’s sympathy to Israel’s situation which led to his murder at the hands of Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan, who stalked Kennedy for weeks before killing him.
“RFK must die” was written over and over in Sirhan’s handwriting, discovered in a hotel room after the killing.
“Kennedy, you son of a bitch!” Sirhan yelled just before pulling the trigger on his gun.
Seems as though Helen Thomas and Sirhan Sirhan sort of share the same views.
Only, where Sirhan fired his gun at Kennedy, Thomas turned her gun on herself.
The National Enquirer and the Pulitzer Prize.
I may as well have just said sardines and chocolate ice cream.
Not so fast, Jack.
The Pulitzers were announced today. They are print journalism’s highest honors. The usual suspects were listed among the winners: The New York Times, the Washington Post, et al.
But the Enquirer gave it a shot, and they were serious.
The Enquirer, that screaming tabloid dangling from grocery store and drugstore racks all over the country with its come hither headlines, had a pretty good year—good enough to warrant some Pulitzer consideration.
The basket that the Enquirer was putting all of its eggs into was its tenacious work on the John Edwards sex scandal, a story that was shunned by “mainstream media” at times, all while the Enquirer never took its eye off the prize—no pun intended.
Why, the Enquirer even turned some heads among the journalistic eggheads.
“Had the Enquirer not exercised a very tenacious reporting on this—which we respect in the journalism world, right?—would we not have known that this scandal was occurring?” said Geneva Overholser, director of the school of journalism at the University of Southern California. “Would Edwards perhaps have been nominated [for president]? … I mean, there’s no question the course of history would have been different.”
Wow—the Enquirer being propped up as potential changers of American history?
That’s not what folks have always done when they’ve read the Enquirer—believed it.
But that hasn’t always been a fair assessment of its journalistic chops.
The Enquirer has had some surprising journalistic scoops in years past, including the Gary Hart sex scandal and a number of leads during the O.J. Simpson trial. With the Edwards story, it had some support from mainstream media observers.
The rise of the Enquirer to even this close to a Pulitzer serves to underline how blurred the lines have gotten anymore between what has been considered “hard” journalism and reckless reporting.
Blogging has bridged the gap. Everyone blogs—from the respected, award-winning journalists to the radical looney tune next door. The looney tune, because of blogging’s acceptance by today’s society as a legitimate outlet and source of content, has edged more toward legitimacy, while the already-credible people have used blogging to broaden their horizons and further their boundaries.
The result? Those two seemingly polar opposites are getting closer and closer to meeting in the middle.
The Enquirer just might win that heretofore elusive Pulitzer someday.
But just to be considered is a big win for the Enquirer folks—for now.
Executive editor Barry Levine is basking in the glow of the buzz surrounding the Enquirer’s work on the John Edwards story.
“It helps our credibility around the world,” Levine told CNN.
Meanwhile, reports that Hell is starting to form ice crystals haven’t been confirmed. Yet.
Well, it’s been a few months now and I can officially report it.
I read newspapers, not facsimiles thereof.
I’m a Detroit Free Press subscriber, which means, thanks to cost-cutting moves by the two dailies in town, that I get a real-life newspaper delivered to my home on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. After that I’m on my own.
Well, not entirely. I can “read” the newspaper online. It’s an option I haven’t exercised too often.
It’s not news anymore, as the Monday thru Sunday delivery of the paper hasn’t occurred in over three months now, but it’s time to chime in. The “virtual” newspaper has left me, basically, reading the paper on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Only.
Oh, I’ve tried the online version. At first, I thought it was a pretty cool novelty. The “paper” does, indeed, look just like a real newspaper. Articles are pretty easily clicked on and viewed — either with or without the photos and graphics.
As I perused the online “newspaper” in those early days, back in early April, I had much the same sensation as I did back in my college days, when I would traipse to the library at EMU and look at microfilm of archived editions of the Freep and the Detroit News.
The look and feel was the same, to me. Zooming in and out of stories. Panning to the left and right. Reading the newspaper font on a glowing monitor before me. I used to spend hours doing that, while researching papers and the like.
Today? Not so much.
I find that I don’t even bother with the online version on Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Hardly ever, anymore.
I work largely from home, which means I spend countless hours in front of a CRT and tapping on a keyboard, sometimes furiously. Like now.
It’s just not the same…
But it just never occurs to me — or at least, rarely does it — to visit the Freep’s online version. I mean, I’m probably not getting my money’s worth. Let’s put it that way.
But when a “hard copy” of the paper arrives on my doorstep, I make time to read it. Go figure.
I guess I just like the “feel” of reading a newspaper — with my hands, before me, or while I eat (Lord, how I love to read while I eat).
I’m probably a bit of an anomaly. Most folks my age (45) and below likely don’t miss a real newspaper as much as I do. They get into all that digital age stuff. And I do, too, to a degree.
But I’m an old soul, always have been. I tend to take the attitude of those 15, 20 years my senior in matters such as technology replacing newsprint.
I just can’t get into it. Doesn’t hold my interest very long, the digital newspaper.
Yesterday was an example.
I visited the website, “opened” my paper, and “turned” to a story in the sports section. But then I stopped and told myself I’d read it later.
So there the opened tab stayed on my browser, unread. All day, and night.
Finally, I clicked on the “x” and closed the tab — the sports story never read.
Had a real paper been at my disposal, it would have been unheard of for me to discard it without reading it. Unheard of.
The digital newspaper has turned me into a part-time reader now, and I don’t like it.
I know there’s tons of information on the Net. Tons of it. But I like my paper for local news, mainly. I feel disconnected now. Which isn’t good, when this blog partially relies on me being “up” on the news of the day.
Just gives me all the more reason to write about stuff of yesteryear, which gives me more pleasure anyway, truth be told.
Still, this part-time newspaper reading thing bothers me. I doubt I’m alone — even if those with me are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Doesn’t do any good to bitch about it; the change is irreversible, I would imagine.
All I know is, you’ll never see a pristine, untouched newspaper in this house. The fact that you can now only see them here on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays is only good in one sense.
It’s less newspapers I have to load into the recycling bin every week.