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RIP Helen Thomas: Trailblazing Reporter


By Garibaldi

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.

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  • Ilisha

    It’s very good to see you’re finally willing to outright repudiate her comments. You may be right that she had a rough childhood (though at least part of her narrative is false), and it may be too that she’s confused or inconsistent.

    Nevertheless, nothing justifies calling for genocide. I hope we all agree on that. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Mehdi

    Why am I not surprised?

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    There was a Dutch investigative documentary that actually proved a lot of her story false: for instance her claim that she was “forced married” to her cousin by her supposed “terrible father.” As well as her claims that she was threatened with “honor killing.” All lies. This is part 1 of 4:

  • Ilisha

    In case anyone had lingering doubts from the last time we discussed Hirsi, I think we’re now crystal clear you are steadfast in your defense of her genocidal comments.

    It takes some serious moxie to come to Loonwatch, a site devoted to anti-Muslim bigotry and frequented by many Muslims and their allies, and defend someone literally calling for genocide against Muslims, and the eradication of their religion from the face of the earth. Though I’m shocked and disgusted by your lack of moral clarity, I commend you for your honestly.

  • Ilisha

    So you still won’t repudiate Hirsi. It’s okay for her to wax genocidal because she may have had a rough childhood, and because sometimes she doesn’t sound stark raving mad?

    Maybe Gilad Atzman had a rough childhood, and he doesn’t always sound like an antisemite and a loon either. Yet you think it’s important to strongly repudiate him. I wonder why we are seeing this stark contrast in your reaction?

    You have insisted before that we (Loonwatch) repudiate Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as if we’re followers of his–which we’re not. You linked to a notorious, misleading hate site, MEMRI, and kept challenging us to condemn whatever Qaradawi supposedly said. I did say clearly, that if what they portrayed was correct (which is by no menas certain), then yes, what he said was awful. Yet that wasn’t good enough because you mentioned it again to me later, and also said another contributor didn’t repudiate him sufficiently. Why do we have to? It’s not like we’re cross posting articles he wrote.

    Yet despite your demands of others, you somehow can’t bring yourself to be forthright and simply admit that what Hirsi said was awful–literally genocidal.

    Hirsi hasn’t changed. She was spewing hatred and lies on Atlas Shrugs just days ago. You’ve expressed outrage over far less hateful things being said about Jews and Israel than Hirsi routinely says about Islam and Muslims. You simply aren’t consistent. Not even close.

  • SarahAB

    That all seems very reasonable! I don’t find Atzmon’s music appealing – but I certainly listen to Wagner.

  • Mehdi

    I’m a jazz fan and was first impressed with Gilad Atzmon’s music, especially one song about Al Quds (Jerusalem) where a palestinian singer recited a pretty moving poem by Mahmoud Darwish, but I started feeling uneasy when reading some articles from him, to me he clearly crossed the antisemite line, and his writing should be dismissed as such, I still listen to his music (just as I don’t mind listening to Wagner despite his antisemitism or him being Hitler’s favorite composer, I think distinctions need to be made on that sense).

    Regarding AHA, while her personal story is horrendous, I have more and more doubts about some aspects, a lot of small details don’t seem to be credible and I think she’s deliberately exaggerating some parts. The death threats she received are unacceptable, they are to be condemned and she has the right to express her thoughts (just as she should accept criticism), but I really think that she’s exaggerating, and her mindset is really beyond islamophobia, this woman is at war and deeply disrespectful and intolerant for anyone who doesn’t share her views.

    Tarek Fatah is a joke, I subscribed to his FB posts out of curiosity, and they were more laughable than anything else, just ridiculous, although I’m not versed to all his writings.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    “I completely understand why no Muslim would have any time for AHA but a) her views seem complex…”

    Perhaps if one defines complex as believing that all Islam must be defeated in every way possible, including militarily. See my propaganda below:

    Reason: Should we acknowledge that organized
    religion has sometimes sparked precisely the kinds of emancipation movements that could lift Islam into modern times? Slavery in the United States ended in part because of opposition by prominent church members and the communities they galvanized. The Polish Catholic Church helped defeat the Jaruzelski puppet regime. Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?

    Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because
    right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.

    Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

    Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

    Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

    Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

    Reason: Militarily?

    Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence
    of being crushed.

  • SarahAB

    I completely understand why no Muslim would have any time for AHA but a) her views seem complex and I don’t feel I have looked into them enough to be sure and b) she seems to have had a traumatic early life, so if she is bigoted she at least has some personal reason for that which many Islamophobes do not. I am sure I have already stated that I do in fact quite see what you mean about Tarek Fatah having not initially understood the problem.

    It is less a case of me demanding you repudiate Atzmon, more a suggestion that antizionists might have a particular reason to wish to do so – although it’s nonsense to suggest he is himself a Zionist agent provocateur – I can just about see where people are coming from with that idea! He is perceived by some antizionists as a menace to antizionism because he can be used so easily to smear a/z. His profile is very peculiar – he opposes BDS but engages in Holocaust trivialisation. He calls some zealously antizionist Jews agents of Israel.

  • Ilisha

    Not everyone agrees Gilad Atzmon is an antisemite.

    You have refused to repudiate Ayan Hirsi Ali in a forthright manner, even though she said she wants to destroy Islam “militarily.” You won’t repudiate Tarek Fatah either.

    If you want to weigh in and agree Glad Atzmon is

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    It’s also telling that not all Arab Jews purposefully wanted to or in fact did go to Israel. According to Magda Haroun only a few Egyptian Jews went to Israel:

    On a side note interestingly enough the Ashkenazi community in Egypt arrived in the 19th century fleeing persecution in Europe.

  • Tighe McCandless

    My ‘goal’ (if you can really even call it that) is just for personal leisure. I enjoy reading about the history of the world, either current or in the past, and I think that it’s important to being a good citizen of the planet. You can’t make decisions in the future if you don’t know what happened in the past to cause the present. Armchair philosophy aside, since Israel is such a hot-button topic (and living in, I’d say, a golden age of information sharing) I don’t think there’s an excuse not to try to make oneself knowledgeable.

    I didn’t mean to imply that I was solely trying to find one side of the argument. Like I said, the discussion going on above was the reason I only mentioned the Nakba specifically. Everyone has a story, of course. I didn’t mean to imply I only wanted to look at pro-Palestinian positions. I think it’s pretty foolish to only really consider one side of an argument.

    That said: thank you all for responding so promptly and with as many suggestions as you have. I only responded here because that was the original topic chain and I don’t think I could do that for all of you. I appreciate that LoonWatch’s community of commentators is so willing to help someone out. 😀

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