Helen Thomas, We Hardly Knew Ye

Update: John Cole catches the other key point to be made about the unpersoning of Thomas.  It continues the cleansing of the White House press corps capacity to commit journalism.

Update 2: See Glenzilla for a quick update on the thesis that Helen Thomas’s error was to pick the wrong group to repatriate, and nothing more (check out his links for details.)

Ted K., one of the regular commenters here, has asked me if I would write about Israel’s stupid and morally bankrupt raid on the Turkish flagged Gaza blockade runners, and I will.

I’ll do so despite having nothing to add to the growing number of observers who have noted that a nation to which I feel enormous connection has in its occupation policy in general and in this instance in particular managed to combine the dumb and the bad with a spectacular disregard for both the lessons of the prophets and its own self-interest.

But before I get to that post, this news struck me as sad:  Helen Thomas has resigned, in what appears to be a “jump before we push you” move.

Now, to be on the edge of 90 and choosing to retire is not the worst thing in the world — except, as everyone knows, Thomas did not retire.

She was forced to leave because she said something supremely stupid and hateful in its own way about the need for Jews in Israel to go back to where they came from — Germany, Poland, wherever.  Josh Marshall has a short post up that captures just how deadly that remark was.

It’s almost impossible to count the ways in which that is a catastrophic statement — but in the context of a broad demonization of anyone who dares speak ill of a disastrous Israeli government, I’m not ready to throw off the bus one of the few journalists who did not lose her wits during the Bush years (and for decades before).

To put my reaction in the simplest terms:  I’d like to live in a journalistic world in which the utterance of hateful statements about ethnic, religious or racial groups would get them both fired and shunned.

But the last time I looked Pat Buchanan still has a job.  He’s said worse than Thomas ever did, over and over again.

Glenn Beck rolls in the mud with Nazi sympathizers (and has this peculiar predilection to dress up in East German Secret Police garb, for which I do not advocate banning, just ridicule.  Not my fault if the uni fits him well, you know (plus it makes me think of Dire Straits great “Les Boys” tune).

Dan Michael (wee bit o’ difference there, doncha think –ed.) Savage trades in anti-Semitic code — and not so coded nastiness.

And so on.

And did I mention that Buchanan still has a job?

Now I’d be down with Helen Thomas having to quit, or take Talmud classes for six months or whatever if we had a consistent standard here.  Or perhaps, to be more cold, if losing Helen Thomas’s voice in the White House Briefing Room were the price to pay to get Pat of my teevee, it would be worth it.

But we don’t get that option.

I wonder why?

Image:  Henryk Nowodworski, cartoon depicting the pogrom  in Białostock in 1906.

Explore posts in the same categories: Journalism and its discontents, Republican knavery

Tags: , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

11 Comments on “Helen Thomas, We Hardly Knew Ye”

  1. Josh Rosenau Says:

    ITYM “Michael” Savage rather than the unrelated Dan Savage.

  2. Tom Says:

    err, yes. Corrected above…

    What can I say – one more for the don’t blog while…list. This time, it’s consuming tylenol/codeine.

  3. Michelle Says:

    Hmm. Still showing up as “Dan Savage” for me. (I was about to comment in defense of poor Dan when I saw that Josh had already done so.)

    • Tom Says:

      OK, Fixed. I mean, really. And did I say, FYWP?
      (Seriously, I did make the change and hit the update button. I think Steve Jobs ate my intertubes or something.)

  4. Ted K Says:

    I like this post. It’s awfully hard to defend Helen Thomas here. I guess the answer is you can’t. But I wonder if some mental prob related to age is possible here?? I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, what she said was wrong, offensive, and it’s just so sad she didn’t end it before she said that.

    I appreciate the Israel/flotilla post when it comes. I guess it seems somewhat tiresome topic when it’s been chewed on so much, but I was curious your particular take on it as I enjoy your writing, and I think you look at it pretty objectively. I remember Chinese people used to ask me what I thought of Waco Texas (David Koresh) and I used to find something about that very annoying. Waco Texas was always the Chinese reply for Tiananmen massacre. I mean because I was American that I should have some answer for it. Obviously it’s a bad comparison on many levels to the Flotilla, apples and oranges, but you know my meaning I guess.

    I think Hamas is 100% evil, and I think this is one reason Netanyahu rationalizes his actions in his mind, that as long as Hamas is in power in Gaza, it gives him license for the extreme.

    I like Abbas (at least he seems to be trying on the surface appearance). And generally I like Norman Finkelstein (the writer), I think he is super super intelligent and I love listening to his public lectures on my I-pod. Something just fascinating listening to his logic, and I find 90% I really like what Finkelstein says. The 10% I dislike Finkelstein is when he semi-defends Hamas. If he wants to sympathize with the children in Gaza fine, then why not use Abbas as the “standard” or example??? Mentioning Hamas almost ruins all the super intelligent things Finkelstein seems to say on the issue.

    • Ted K Says:

      There is one lecture Finkelstein gives to the UN press corps (I think, but I’m not sure, I want to try to find it for you and post it here sometime in near future, an I-tunes download). But he’s asked a challenging question by what sounds like an Israeli writer or someone who is pretty vehement on the issue, and Finkelstein’s response is just so genius, I wish I could make that roughly 4 minute banter between the 2 required reading for all American middle school kids and all suspected racists, it was just so pure and logical the way Finkelstein said it. I will try to find the id of that podcast and even the timeframe of that question, it’s so good I think even you would be mildly impressed with it Tom. The emotion Finkelstein says it, you cannot doubt the man is sincere in his heart on the race issue, even anybody can disagree Finkelstein, but I don’t think anyone can doubt Finkelstein’s sincerity on it.

  5. Ted K Says:

    Here is the link. Over on the right it has the opening speech, and then the Q&A. Both are good, but the Q&A is the juicier part. I think all of it is worth some weekend time (if you have any). It’s roughly at the 18:39 mark of the Q&A to the 21:50 mark. I really like Finkelstein a lot and many things he says, but that exchange pretty much crystallizes why I like him. And it’s not just words for him or a throw away line. You can feel the emotion in his voice.

  6. Andy Says:

    Is there some distinction that applies between a reporter on the one hand, who is supposed to maintain some level of neutrality, and a talking head, who is entitled to be biased and in fact is known and acknowledged to be biased?

    My impression is that Helen Thomas is a reporter while Buchanan, Beck, Savage, etc. are all talking heads. Wouldn’t that be enough to explain their disparate treatment? Do you think there would be mass protest if Ms. Thomas were to land on her feet somewhere as an opinion journalist?

    It does seem that, given the extremity of her expressed view, Ms. Thomas’s reporting on anything to do with Middle East issues would have to be dubious. Indeed, her statement that triggered this whole to-do was factually misleading, given that such a large portion of Israel’s citizens were (or are descended from people who were) expelled from various Arab countries rather than Germany or Poland.

    • Andy Says:

      Sorry, I guess she’s not really a correspondent anymore and has already been pretty much purely an opinion journalist since 2000. So the distinction is irrelevant. I retract my comment. 🙂

  7. Jim Bales Says:


    If you aren’t familiar with Terry Welch’s blog, you might check it out. Terry served in Afghanistan in a Public Affairs capacity and brings the insight of a military vet who is also detail-oriented reporter who is quite happy to dig through all of the DoD jargon to understand exacly what the record does (and does not) have to say.

    Appropos this post are his comments on Helen Thomas and Helen Thomas.

    If you dig back, he put together a really nice set of posts documenting how Republican Rep. Mark Kirk was getting away with the sort of mis-statements that got Democrat Richard Blumenthal so much grief. Rachel Maddow picked it up as did CNN and even Chris Matthews (a little).


  8. AJ Hill Says:

    I wish I hadn’t heard the remarks that resulted in Ms. Thomas’s abrupt departure. I’ve always admired her willingness to ask the tough questions that younger, more highly paid reporters would not touch. These last hateful comments of hers seem so out of character – or did I miss something all along? – and so fundamentally stupid that I’m tempted to attribute them more to the ravages of old age than to her actual convictions. Goodness knows, we have precious few genuine heroes left. I hate losing another one like this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: