Of Course VICE Scored One of Helen Thomas’ Last Pre-Implosion Interviews


Jesus. Apparently, we all need to take lessons in editorial foresight from the ether-huffing sellouts at VICE. Accompanied by Richard Kern photographs, Steve Lafreniere interviewed 89 year-old White House reporter Helen Thomas for an upcoming VICE issue, the text of which they’ve released online in light of Thomas’ recent retirement after controversial comments involving the Jews and Palestine (she thinks they should get the “hell out”) that you’ve probably heard by now.

Money Quotes:

Is it just me or did the mainstream press seem particularly flabby after 9-11?
They were afraid of not being considered real patriots, and I’m sure the big communications corporations got orders from on high. So they played ball.

Thomas was never a fan of so many of her contemporaries, as she shouldn’t be. She’s also fairly skeptical of untrained reporting being mistaken for news:

I can’t tell if the blogosphere is provoking or placating all of this [Tea Party rage].
Everyone with a cell phone thinks they’re a photographer. Everyone with a laptop thinks they’re a journalist. But they have no training and they have no idea of what we keep to in terms of standards, as in what’s far out and what’s reality. And they have no dedication to truth.

And finally, preceding the Lebanese-decedent’s views on Israel:

Well, do you think there’s been any real change with the Obama administration regarding American policy toward Israel?
No, I really don’t. It’s a facade. The administration wanted to take it as a personal insult when Biden was in the Middle East and Israel announced all this new housing in occupied territory, which is absolutely against international law. You cannot annex occupied land, at least under the rules of Geneva. Haaretz said it was 50,000 housing units. Well, certainly Washington had to react in some way. But I don’t think it’s lasting.

It’s a stellar interview, and VICE even contextualizes the importance of Thomas pre-controversy as an introduction to the interview, in typical VICE fashion, which is — here, at least — strangely effective:

“But hold on a minute,” you say. “Who’s Helen Thomas again?” Really, kid? Lebanese-American member of the White House Press Corps since 1960. Pioneering female journalist. The little old lady who sits in the front row at Presidential press conferences and asks the questions that the other reporters are too scared to ask. A journalist who truly challenges politicians, who wants them to be able to explain and justify their decisions and positions, whose most valued question is ‘why.’ Now she has been hounded into quitting the job that was her life. Her agent for speaking engagements has summarily dropped her. She is being vilified by many and lauded by others but no matter what, we believe that she is owed a huge debt of respect and gratitude for the work she’s done in the name of true democracy. We fear that the White House Press Corps has lost its conscience in losing Helen Thomas. Whether anyone has the balls to carry on what she has started remains to be seen.

PS: Yes, she does discuss Israel in this interview, if you’re curious about whether there’s a timely money shot to sink your teeth into. But there’s a lot more going on here. Don’t let Helen Thomas’s views on Israel alone define her for you.

And they’re right. The woman — who is supposed to be an objective journalist — ceased to hold true her job’s principles in a very, very bad moment. She’d been orating more than she’d been reporting in the twilight of her career. But the fact that she was pioneer for female journalists, pushed the goalposts back for the kind of work White House correspondents should put into their stories, and set new standards for tough, in-your-face questioning of the American Executive shouldn’t be forgotten. The world doesn’t need more people like the opinionated, extremist Helen Thomas; that said, the world desperately needs more of the fearless, hard-working, straight-shooting Helen Thomas, the reporter. As for the ether-huffers at VICE, they’ve yet again proven themselves capable of surprising everyone by serving up stellar content with more flair and sharper shooting than what’s expected of their stiffer magazine brethren. Nice get.


Previously – Video: Five Classic Helen Thomas Moments