To a great extent, Thomas has been a trailblazer for women.
As far as the field of journalism goes, Helen Thomas broke through stereotypes and perceptions as she became the first woman to serve as an officer in the national Press Club, the first woman member of the Gridiron Club and first female president of the White House Correspondents Association.
For that she deserve credit. But beyond those milestones, the career of Helen Thomas has essentially been a lackluster one propped up by her persistence and longevity.
Being one of the longest serving members of the White House Press Corp and for the longest time, its oldest member too, her career of late has been sustained solely through the respect that those whom she questions, graciously grant to her advanced age and years of service. Her unusually long service in covering the White House has even earned Thomas her own chair in the White House Press Room, a privilege that, with the exception of Thomas, is accorded only to assigned to media outlets.
Thomas is even given the unique honor of being guaranteed the opportunity to be one of the handful of reporters given the opportunity to ask a President a question at national press conferences. Since the Kennedy years, calling on Helen Thomas to ask a question has become a tradition.
But all of this respect and tradition that continues to be accorded to Helen Thomas is no longer necessarily based on talent and ability. It is merely based on her endurance in the field.
Like a decrepit senator who has served six or seven terms and walked around D.C. for 42 years or more, Helen Thomas is a fixture that has become more of a habit than a talent. Like Robert Byrd of West Virginia or Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, for Helen Thomas, the requirements of her job have passed her mental and physical capabilities and she is not serving the people as well as others could.
This reality has only been made quite apparent after Helen Thomas blurted out a blatantly anti-Semitic answer to a question asked of her by Rabbi David Nesenoff, during an interview following a White House Jewish heritage event.
Writing for RabbiLive.com, when Nesenoff asked Thomas if she had any comments about Israel, she replied; “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine”.
Thomas was then asked where they should go and she replied that
“they should go home” to Poland, Germany, America and “everywhere else”.
Since then, Thomas has released a statement of apology and added that those remarks do not reflect her “heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.”
But the record shows that Helen Thomas actually does not have any of that “heartfelt”, “mutual respect” that she spoke of. Being of Lebanese descent, Thomas has been a vocal opponent of Israel, something that she always makes sure is made clear when she phrases any question that she asks.
The truth is that Helen Thomas has spent the better part of the last twelve years, doing nothing but go on the record with some of the most unethically biased journalistic standards of any member of the press. Her questions have all been intentionally phrased with obvious biases and are often far less respectful than the answers which she receives from patient spokesmen.
Recently, in a long overdue national press conference by President Obama, when called upon, Thomas asked, “how much longer will Americans be killing Afghanis in Afghanistan?”
Now even if a journalist had any personal belief that the war in Afghanistan is unjust and that all Americans are doing is killing innocent Afghanis, if they were honest and held true to any journalistic integrity and standards, that same question would have been asked something like this………how much longer will the United States continue to wage war in Afghanistan?
But Thomas can not even pretend to hide her biases anymore. And when it comes to Jews
she has maintained a very anti-Israel attitude for decades now.
In 2006 Thomas asked a question which she first used as an opportunity to claim that the United States was supporting “collective punishment for Lebanon and Palestine.”
At the time she was addressing Tony Snow, one of the most talented and successful White House press secretaries there ever was, and his response was probably unlike any other Thomas got before. He began by saying, “Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view.”
That was probably one of the few times that Thomas got an answer that was as respectful as the way she phrased he question.
Since then, Thomas has just been treated with kid gloves and accorded an amount of respect that is disproportionate to her talent, tact talent and professionalism.
Let’s be honest here.
Helen Thomas did her job and she was the first woman to do a few things, but beyond that, Helen Thomas has not exactly been a great talent. She spent much of her earlier career essentially writing a political gossip column. Then she spent time asking presidents and their spokesmen questions, none of which were particularly exceptional questions that others did not ask before or after she asked them. None of them led to the uncovering of any great scandal or misdeeds. She was hardly a hardworking correspondent who investigated what was beneath surface. Thomas simply spent the last few decades asking the obvious.
Washington does not need more of the obvious and after her latest outburst, it is obvious that Washington does need Helen Thomas anymore.
It’s time for her current employer, the Hearst Corporation to let Thomas go and for any other responsible media outlet to allow her to remain in forced retirement. It’s time for journalism to start getting back some of the integrity that it lost to ratings and scripted reality television programming. Reporters who can’t contain their biases and who can’t be counted on to deliver the news based on actual events, should not be given their own chair among the people’s national press corps and rewarded for what they once did but not punished for what they are doing.
Helen Thomas must go. It is time for journalism to tell Helen Thomas to do what she told Jews…..”go home”.