Monday, June 14, 2010

Helen Thomas, Liberal Pioneer of Adversarial Reporting

Helen Thomas, senior correspondent for the Associated Press and the dean of the White House press corps, resigned after her recent remarks in which she repeated the myth that Jews have not lived continuously in the Holy Land in characteristically rude terms, declaring that Jews should “get . . . out of Palestine” and “go back” to Germany and Poland. Despite being killed, enslaved or scattered by the Romans after the last Jewish Revolt, there has remained a continuous presence of a number of Jews in the Holy Land for thousands of years, such as in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. The Lebanese-American reporter’s statement was the latest in her history of anti-Israel comments.

The liberal media establishment disavowed Thomas for her bigoted comments, but still hailed her as a pioneer for reporters, especially for females. The near-nonagenarian’s career as a White House correspondent lasted through the Administrations of eleven presidents, beginning with President Dwight Eisenhower. For decades, protocol was for the president to call upon Thomas first as the most senior correspondent in terms of length of service, a custom President George W. Bush ended. To his credit, at times he even pointedly did not call upon the senior reporter for the largest wire service at all, despite her presence in the front row of the small press room in a privileged seat labeled with the AP brass plate (I know because I saw it on a private tour of the West Wing in 2001; in addition to standing at the podium, hers was the one seat I could not resist sitting in).

Despite being considered a reporter, Thomas was also an opinion journalist, a conflict that was a matter of some controversy within the media establishment. She expressed her liberal views in her column, but they also were reflected in her questions and statements at White House press conferences. Indeed, Thomas’ questions were not asked, especially of Republican presidents, in order to report information to her readers, but were asked in an adversarial manner in order to score rhetorical points, as if the Fourth Estate had been elected to debate the president like members of a parliament question their colleague serving as prime minister. Her questions of Democratic presidents were tough only when they strayed from liberalism.

Now the anti-Semitism behind Helen Thomas’ left-wing views has been revealed, but not as a mar on an otherwise good record, as the liberal media portrays it, but as a true reflection of her liberal anti-Israel, anti-American views.

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