Helen Thomas (born August 4, 1920) is a noted news service reporter, a Hearst Corporation columnist, and member of the White House Press Corps. She served for fifty-seven years as a correspondent and White House bureau chief for United Press International (UPI). Thomas has covered every president since John F. Kennedy, was the first woman officer of the National Press Club, was the first woman member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, and the first woman member of the Gridiron Club. She has written four books, including her latest, Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public.
Early life and career
Thomas was born in Winchester, Kentucky to Lebanon immigrants. Contemporary Heroes and Heroines. Vol. 3. Gale Research, 1998; Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 19. Gale Group, 1999; Current Biography, H.W. Wilson Co., 1993. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended Wayne University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1942. Thomas' first job in journalism was as a copygirl for the now-defunct Washington Daily News, but shortly after she was promoted to cub reporter she was fired as part of massive cutbacks at the paper.
After joining UPI in 1943, Thomas wrote news on women's topics for their radio wire service. Later in the decade she wrote their "Names in the News" column, and after 1955 she covered federal agencies such as the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Thomas served as president of the Women's National Press Club 1959–60.
In November, 1960, Helen began covering then President-elect John F. Kennedy, following him to the White House in January 1961 as a UPI correspondent. During this assignment, Thomas became known for closing presidential News conference with the tagline "Thank you, Mr. President."
She later became White House Bureau Chief for UPI, where she was employed until her resignation on May 17, 2000. At this time, UPI was acquired by News World Communications, which owns The Washington Times; Thomas has indicated that she resigned because of News World Communications' ties to Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Thomas then became a White House correspondent and a columnist for King Features Syndicate (Hearst Corporation).
Traditionally, Thomas sat in the front row and asked the first question during White House press conferences, but according to Helen Thomas in a 2006 Daily Show interview, this ended because she no longer represents a wire service. Thomas has since been moved to the back row during press conferences, although she still sits in the front row during press briefings. She is called upon at briefings on a daily basis but no longer ends Presidential news conferences saying "Thank you, Mr. President." Asked why she is now seated in the back row, she said, "Because they don't like me... I ask too mean questions." http://www.campusprogress.org/features/779/five-minutes-with-helen-thomas
On March 21, 2006, Thomas was called upon directly by President Bush for the first time in three years. Thomas asked Bush about Iraq:
Bush responded at first by discussing Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060321-4.html Thomas was criticized by conservative commentators for her exchange with Bush. http://mediamatters.org/items/200603270001
Thomas has publicly expressed her opinion about President Bush. After a speech at a Society of Professional Journalists banquet, she told an autograph seeker who asked why she was sad "I'm covering the worst president in American history." The autograph seeker was a writer for the Daily Breeze and her comments were published. After she was not called upon during a press conference for the first time in over four decades, she wrote to the president to apologize.Ann McFeatters, "Thank You, Ms. Thomas", Ms. magazine, summer 2006. She also told The Hill (newspaper) "The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself. All we need is another liar... I think he'd like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does."
At a student journalism conference hosted by the Center for American Progress on June 2, 2006, Thomas lambasted journalists who, according to her, did not give accurate, critical reports on the Iraq War. She said she hopes for the return of hard reporting, and that the student audience should be "out on the street" in protest instead of sitting in the conference room.
At the July 18, 2006 White House press briefing Helen Thomas (HT) and Tony Snow (TS) had a heated exchage, which begins:
HT: The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.
TS: I don't think so, Helen.
HT: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.
TS: What's interesting, Helen --
HT: And this is what's happening, and that's the perception of the United States.
TS: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view ...
In November 1976, Thomas was named one of the "25 Most Influential Women in America" by the World Almanac. In 1986, Thomas was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame. In 1998, she received the International Women's Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award Also in 1998, she was the first recipient of a prize established in her name by the White House Correspondents Association - the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award
Thomas was the only female print journalist to travel with then-President Richard M. Nixon to China during his 1972 Nixon visit to China in February 1972. She has traveled around the world several times with Presidents Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and has covered every Economic Summit. Her niece, Suzanne Geha, is an anchor at WOOD-TV the NBC television station in Grand Rapids, Michigan Thomas had a cameo in the 1993 movie Dave (film). The Final Days, President Clinton's 2000 parody of his own waning term of office, features Thomas among other pundits and White House staffers. Clinton makes a major policy speech to the White House press corps only to find the briefing room empty except for a snoozing Thomas who, awakened, impatiently asks him, "Are you still here?" (Complete clip: http://www.pocketmovies.net/detail_66.html) George W. Bush has taken only one question from Thomas. Before asking the question she stated: "You're going to be sorry".White House (2006). Press Conference of the President. Retrieved July 6, 2006.
Thomas was featured in the "audition tape" made by Stephen Colbert for the position of Press Secretary. The segment was shown after Stephen Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. After Colbert deflects a number of questions from other journalists, Thomas begins asking her question regarding the Iraq war. This sends a panicked Stephen to the streets, where he is stalked by Thomas all the way to New York City. Widely distributed online, a portion of the clip later aired on his show The Colbert Report on Comedy Central on 5/2/2006. Complete Clip Links: Part 1Part 2
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/