It is with great sadness that we learned about the passing of Helen Thomas, who is being remembered in various media outlets for her amazing coverage of the White House as a trailblazing reporter who asked the tough questions.
From Watergate, 9/11, the Iraq War, War on Terror to debates over the public option, she was at the forefront of honest reporters discomfiting those in authority into actually answering questions. This is how she will be remembered.
While the eulogies to the “Dean of the White House Press Corps” have been numerous and overwhelmingly positive there has been some inaccurate coverage regarding the incident that led to her eventual press lynching and “sudden” retirement.
Take the New York Times‘ misleading description of the incident:
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.
This is not accurate, the NY Times wording leaves open the door to the implication that Helen Thomas was making an anti-Semitic statement, as if she were saying Jews should go back to the “gas chambers.” That is exactly how it was reported at the time and it is untrue; Helen Thomas herself made that quite clear.
In fact, Thomas was stating, if rather impulsively, that Israeli colonizers should go back to the countries that they originally come from, including the “United States and everywhere else.” (Interestingly enough you still have colonizers arriving from the USA, Europe and elsewhere to settle the West Bank.)
In any case this was only a small blip on the screen of a magnificent career that broke more than a few barriers, illuminated our world greatly and can’t but be appreciated by many.
RIP Helen Thomas (1920-2013).
*JSB linked an excerpt of an interview Helen Thomas gave that I was unaware of beforehand in which she fed stereotypes of “Jewish control.” I want to make clear that I repudiate these views and believe it is beyond the realm of legitimate criticism.