The oldest and easily one of the most distinguished White House reporters in the history of the White House Press Corps, Reuters columnist Helen Thomas, announced her retirement today after some unsavory remarks about Jews and they need to “get the hell out of Palestine.” It’s really too bad she’s going out like this, under the pressure of some dumb shit she said, because everyone slips up, and Thomas — who has grilled every president since the last Eisenhower term — is one hell of a reporter, even in her crazy-old age.
5. Helen Thomas on the Obama Administration’s Press Handling: “I’m amazed at you people.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was briefing the press room’s reporters on how their “Town Hall”-style meeting would work: the administration would pre-select questions submitted on line, and the president would take them. The reporters in the press corps took issue with that, rightly noting what a tight control on the press lines the White House was taking. Helen Thomas — who’s been through and worked with more presidencies than anybody else in the room — notes that she’s never seen anything like it, and calls out Robert Gibbs to applause from the rest of the room for trying to disguise it as anything but disingenuous. Watch her go off at about 2:40:
4. The BP-Afghanistan Gambit. President Obama’s press briefing on the BP spill a few weeks ago was a spill in and of itself, but the first really interesting moment came when Helen Thomas seized upon the rare opportunity to question the president in public on an issue that wasn’t the primary focus of the conference. The moment was a little shocking, but pretty effective.
3. Obama and Thomas. President Barack Obama hasn’t spent a great amount of time in the White House Press Briefing Room — certainly nowhere near the amount of time his predecessor did — but he did drop in to wish Helen Thomas a happy birthday (a birthday they both share) once in what was a pretty sweet gesture to someone he always had a pretty interesting conversational candor with in the Briefing Room.
#2 and #1 are on the next page.
2. The Dana Perino “Regret” Spinout Helen Thomas was questioning George W. Bush’s final White House Press Secretary — the robotic Dana Perino — on casualties in Iraq, and when President Bush would be bringing troops home. Thomas went from questioning to lecturing Perino, and finally, Dana Perino broke form and started going after Thomas, who she felt was disgracing the “honor” and “privilege” of getting to sit in the White House’s Briefing Room. Watch Perino start to lose it at 0:53, and the classic “Well, regret doesn’t bring back a life,” comment from Thomas at 1:33.
1. Helen Thomas Hits Dubya Where It Hurts. At a press conference regarding the war in Iraq with President George W. Bush, Thomas stymies Bush from the first question, noting that he could “end this war now.”