Monday, June 7, 2010

Helen Thomas Has Resigned. Whose Fault?

In the wake of the uproar over her recent inflammatory comments about Israel ("Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.... They should go home [to] Poland, Germany... and America.  And everywhere else..."), Helen Thomas, the 89 year old dean of White House reporters, has resigned today effective immediately. You can read the CNN article about her resignation HERE, or watch the 1 minute clip of her original comments on Israel HERE.

Helen Thomas was a fixture for decades in the front row at the White House briefing room, having covered every president since the Kennedy administration. But she has been periodically making outrageous statements for years now. In January 2003, she called then President Bush "the worst President ever;"  an amazing statement for the "dean of White House reporters" to make about a sitting President, and one only two years into his first term at the time. While President Bush then broke the decades-long tradition of letting her ask the first question at Presidential press conferences, I was surprised that this (and other of her statements) never seemed to provoke more reaction in the press, if not on political grounds then on journalistic ones.

In July 2006, she appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and said, in response to a question, that her favorite US President was John F. Kennedy.  You can watch the 7 minute clip HERE. When asked why, she notes among other things that he founded the Peace Corps.  And that's true, JFK did sign the executive order establishing the Peace Corps in 1961. But the first initiative to establish the Peace Corps was introduced in 1957 by Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. She also mentions that JFK signed the first nuclear test ban treaty. But that was in August 1963, less than a year after taking the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. On that topic she asserts that, "he stepped back from the brink during the Cuban Missile Crisis." Any high school history student could have corrected her by explaining that the resolution began with a message sent by Krushchev personally, outlining a compromise. She goes on to criticize then President Bush. "You don't spread democracy with the barrel of a gun," she says disapprovingly; an interesting critique given that JFK got the country into Vietnam originally and also presided over the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

Uncharacteristically, Jon Stewart challenges none of this. He just fawns over her and tosses her softball questions.  You have to suspect that it was precisely all this sort of well-intentioned deference from fellow journalists over the years that led to her recent propensity to make some pretty outlandish statements, including these remarks about Israel that have now ended her career.

No comments:

Post a Comment