Now that Helen Thomas has offered the world her thoughts on Israel, the world has been only too eager to offer its thoughts on her.
Most everyone agrees that retirement was the necessary move. But commentators are divided on the status of her legacy. While some say her 60-odd years of service should outweigh her recent remarks on Israel – “trailblazer” is a favorite bit of praise – others say they knew all along she was a closet anti-Semite.
The consensus seems to be that Thomas is a relic of a slower, YouTube-less age of journalism, and hadn’t developed the caution most would feel if asked a pointed question about Israel by a rabbi with a video camera.
“While the 89-year-old Thomas is renowned as a trailblazer who aggressively questioned 10 presidents — including President Obama, whom she pressed last month on Afghanistan — her hostility toward Israel has been no secret within the Beltway. Though she gave up her correspondent’s job a decade ago, she retained her front-row briefing-room seat, even as colleagues sometimes rolled their eyes at her obvious biases.”
“A generous person might forgive a one-off ‘slip of the tongue,’ but Helen Thomas has a long history of questioning and opposing anything Israel does in its own defense. While not all criticism of Israel should be translated as anti-Semitism, Thomas’ rhetoric over the years seems to betray a deep-seated hatred of Jews.” He goes on to criticize Thomas’ comparing Israelis to Nazis by deploying a similarly bizarre comparison: “That is like blaming African Americans for police brutality during the civil rights movement.”
The Board of the White House Correspondents Association:
“Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trailblazer on the White House beat.”
“The White House press corps will be diminished without Helen front and center, and not only because she was in that job before the current president was born. She brought a ferocity to her questioning that has eluded too many in subsequent generations. At a time when others were getting cozy with sources, her crabby, unrelenting hostility was refreshing…. Had she retired even a week ago, those would have been the memories. Colleagues would have remembered Obama visiting her with cupcakes in the briefing room and singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her last August.”
“Yes, why did the Jews ever leave Germany and Poland? If anyone should know why the Jews left it, it’s Mother Time. Seriously! Helen! What the f*ck! You were like twenty when it happened!” The old woman lines are comic gold: “You know, that joke killed when she told it to Moses.”
“As someone who has benefited from the trails blazed by Helen Thomas, I am told I should cut her some slack regarding her ignorant remarks about Jews.” But that’s evidently impossible, especially in light of those cupcakes: “Many thought it cute that the president honored her with cupcakes. And they cheered her brazen questions at White House press conferences. I, for one, cringed at what I considered her increasingly inappropriate behavior… It’s a sad end to her life’s work, but even sadder is how the rest of the media were willing to go along for the ride.”
The Post‘s farewell was decidedly less sentimental.