They Shoot Old Reporters, Don’t They?


By: Vincent Fiore

You have to laugh when you see once-upon-a-time UPI reporter Helen Thomas. A creviced stump of a woman, she nevertheless goes toe to toe with anyone in the White House that happens to bare the initials “GOP.”

So, in keeping with the natural order of things–for it is rumored that Thomas has been inside the White House press room long enough to ask Lincoln if freeing the slaves was worth the lives of so many Americans–Thomas again decides that embarrassing a president is much more personally indulgent than merely acting the part of a professional journalist:

Helen Thomas: I’d like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet — your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth — what was your real reason? You have said it wasn’t oil –
quest for oil, it hasn’t been Israel, or anything else. What was it? (Editor and Publisher)

For his part, Bush said that he “didn’t really regret” calling on Thomas, but then added that he “kind of semi-regretted it.” Up until this week’s press conference, Bush had essentially avoided calling on Thomas.

One wonders who gets the better of these exchanges–the president or the press? Well, as the saying goes, “sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.” In this instance, the doyen of the White House press corps met her match in President Bush.

Opinions will vary. But since everyone knows Thomas’s routine by now–ask a supremely partisan and pointless query that leads with accusations and cynicism–you have to assume that President Bush had something in mind.

Might that something be the embarrassment of the national press? What better way to do this, one supposes, then to call upon the room’s most experienced journalist and expose her for the bitter partisan that she is? In the same press conference, Bush upbraided the press for its coverage of the war in Iraq, thereby reminding the public that it is not just Helen Thomas that has trouble with her liberal inclinations, but the mainstream media as a whole.

The only discernible difference is that the flamboyance with which Helen Thomas operates is missing, but the sentiments are the same.

Of course, Helen Thomas stopped being a “reporter” some time ago. Thomas is an op-ed columnist for Hearst Newspapers, where she writes a regular piece for syndication.

News reporters, as I have come to know the term, do not pen articles four days before a presidential election with titles like “Bush Win Would Mean Dark Times.” (commondreams.org)

Nor does a news reporter tell a respected Beltway journal, like The Hill Newspaper, this: “The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I’ll kill myself. All we need is one more liar.” (WorldNetDaily)

No. Reporters report the news. They do not seek to make it. But that is what Helen Thomas does every time she opens her mouth and spews out another “screw you, Mr. President” oratory disguised as a question.

Helen Thomas is anything but objective, as is most of the Washington press corps. If anyone has ever attended one of the daily briefings given to the “Gaggle,” as White House press pool reporters are called, one draws the analogy of Christians and lions. It is a daily blood sport with the victim usually being members of the administration.

Helen Thomas is an example of what this White House has had to deal with these past five-plus years. And after former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer left in July, 2003, things degraded even more. Replacement Scott McClellan, not nearly the authority figure Fleischer was, is almost serially abused.

It was only just a month ago that NBC’s David Gregory called the president’s chief spokesman a “jerk,” as Gregory and the entire White House press corps behaved as foam-flecked jackals before the country’s very eyes over the accidental shooting of Harry Whittington by Vice President Dick Cheney.

And it wasn’t that long ago that these very same “bastions of integrity” called the press were apoplectic upon learning that a “controversial reporter for a conservative Web site” had infiltrated their sacred ranks. While it is true that Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Dale Guckert, had questionable credentials and an even more problematic past, the press was just as upset with the questions that, they say, were “so friendly it might have been planted.” (Free Republic)

Of course, all the questions asked by the Gregorys, Sangers, and VandeHeis of the White House press corps are never tinted with the eruditeness of liberalism. Sure. Still, even these products of an elite media are more reporter and/or journalist than Helen Thomas is.

Helen Thomas has had a long and storied career. Beginning with the Kennedy White House, Thomas has covered nine different presidents and 12 White House administrations, worked for United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, and is now entering her 63rd year in the press.

Somewhat famously, Helen Thomas is known for closing presidential press conferences with her trademark, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

A suggestion for the widely acclaimed “First Lady of the Press:” “Thank you” as well. Now, take your pad and pen to the nearest trash can and drop them in, and exit the press room. Longevity does not give one the right to continually keep trashing the nation’s president.

But like Sydney Pollack’s 1969 movie adaptation of the Horace McCoy novel, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They”? Helen Thomas is the “ultimate spectacle” in this media Bush-bash marathon. But even marathons come to an end, and hopefully, the dance is nearly over for Helen Thomas.

Somewhere in Florida, there is a spot at the bingo table that calls to you, Helen.



Vincent Fiore is a freelance political writer who lives in New York City. His work can be seen on a host of sites, including the American Conservative Union, GOPUSA, ChronWatch, and Opinioneditorials. Vincent is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance and a contributing writer for NewsBusters.org. He receives e-mail at: Anwar004@aol.com

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