[QODLink]
Americas

Pioneer journalist Helen Thomas dies at 92

Trailblazing reporter who covered the White House for nearly five decades has died in Washington.

Last Modified: 21 Jul 2013 06:13
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas, a trailblazing journalist who reported on every US president from John Kennedy to Barack Obama, has died at the age of 92.

Thomas, who worked the White House beat for 49 years for United Press International (UPI) and Hearst newspapers, died on Saturday after a long illness, the Gridiron Club, Washington's historic press organisation, said.

In her long career, she was indelibly associated with the ritual ending White House news conferences.

She was often the one to deliver the closing line: "Thank you, Mister. President" - four polite words that belied a fierce competitive streak.

Her disdain for White House secrecy and dodging spanned five decades, back to President John F Kennedy.

Her freedom to voice her peppery opinions as a speaker and a Hearst columnist came late in her career.

The Bush administration marginalised her, clearly peeved with a journalist who had challenged President George W Bush to his face on the Iraq war and declared him the worst president in history.

In 2009 she asked President Barack Obama, "When are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse and don't give us this Bushism 'If we don't go there, they'll all come here.'"

Pioneer journalist

Thomas was assigned to the White House in 1961 by UPI in part because of the great interest in first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, as well as the new young president.

She would go on to become the dean of the White House media corps and her front-row centre chair in the briefing room eventually had a plaque with her name, the only seat so designated.

Thomas grew up in Detroit, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants.

Middle Eastern affairs were a strong interest and impromptu comments about Israel and the Palestinians in May 2010 were her undoing.

Asked by an interviewer from the website rabbilive.com if she had any comments about Israel, Thomas responded, "Get the hell out of Palestine".

She said "Remember, [the Palestinian] people are occupied, and it's their land."

After the interview spread on the Internet, her comments were criticised by the White House, the White House Correspondents' Association, the co-author of one of her books and the agency that handled her speaking engagements, among others.

Shortly after, she announced her retirement, two months short of her 90th birthday.

367

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
French Jews and Muslims say recent National Front victories in mayoral races reflect rising xenophobia.
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
The Pakistani government is proposing reform of the nation's madrassas, which are accused of fostering terrorism.
Weaving and handicrafts are being re-taught to a younger generation of Iraqi Kurds, but not without challenges.
Featured
Up to 23,000 federal prisoners could qualify for clemency under new Justice Department initiative.
After years of rapid growth, Argentina is bracing for another economic crisis as inflation eats up purchasing power.
Deaths of 13 Sherpas in Nepal has shone a light on dangerous working conditions in the Everest-climbing industry.
Al Jazeera investigation uncovers allegations of beatings and rape in Kenya's ongoing anti-terrorism operation.
Incumbent Joyce Banda has a narrow lead, but anything is possible in Malawi's May 20 elections.
join our mailing list