Long time White House Press Corps doyen Helen Thomas passed away yesterday of a lengthy illness at the age of 92.
Over nearly half a century, Thomas covered every President from Kennedy to Obama.
Perhaps the best thing that was said about Thomas was uttered by Fidel Castro of all people. When asked the difference between Cuba and the United States, Castro replied, “I don’t have to answer questions from Helen Thomas.”
Then again, Castro never had to take questions from anyone in Cuba.
For most of her career, Thomas worked at UPI. However, Thomas left UPI in 2000 following its purchase by Reverend Moon’s Unification Church. Weeks later, Hearst hired Thomas as a syndicated columnist while remaining at her perch in the White House Press Room.
Although Thomas was well known for her salty disposition, after joining Hearst she became more overtly vicious. Indeed, during a speech at MIT in 2002, Thomas made a most revealing statement when she said, “I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?’
As it turned out, Thomas really hated George W. Bush and Jews. Thomas described Bush as “the worst President in American history.” Where it concerned the War in Iraq, Thomas frequently asked various press secretaries if America’s invasion of Iraq was done for Israel. On one occasion in July 2006, during Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the late Tony Snow deftly replied, “Thank you for the Hezbollah view.”
Thomas’ career came to a crashing halt in May 2010 when during a videotaped conversation near the White House during Jewish Heritage Celebration Day. When Rabbi David Nessenoff asked Thomas about Israel she replied, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.” When asked where Israelis should go, Thomas said they should “go home…to Poland and Germany.”
Soon after these remarks, Thomas resigned from her position at Hearst.
In case there was any ambiguity as to Thomas’ feelings towards Jews, she removed all doubt during a speech she gave in Dearborn, Michigan in December 2010. Thomas stated, “Congress, the White House, Hollywood, and Wall Street are owned by the Zionists.”
I am sure Thomas harbored a life long hatred of Jews. After all as the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she was very likely exposed to anti-Semitism at a very early age, but managed to “censor” her true views for most of her life.
Yet most of the headlines on her passing have described Thomas as “pioneering”. While this is an accurate description, had Thomas directed her hatred towards African-Americans and the LGBT community instead of Jews or had just described Obama rather than Bush as the worst President in American history, I suspect we would be viewing a different set of headlines.