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Remembering Helen Thomas: A Gay White House Reporter's Reflections

Chris Johnson, the White House reporter for The Washington Blade, has published his reflections on working with Helen Thomas as a member of the White House Press Corps. Thomas, the first female journalist to cover the president, passed away Saturday at the age of 92.

Recalls Johnson: 

Helen ThomasI first saw Helen Thomas (pictured right with President Obama) in the White House briefing room when I started attending daily briefings at the start of the Obama administration, working the beat for federal LGBT politics. Blade reporters had been kicked out of the briefing room during George W. Bush's second term, so it was a new era and an exciting time.

I remember thinking Thomas could move around the press area deftly for a woman in her late 80s and could hold her own in conversations with other reporters. During a news conference with President Obama in the East Room, she had to have someone escort her by hand over the wires and between the chairs, but otherwise she seemed full of energy.

Bestowed with a front row seat in the briefing room by her colleagues, Thomas would pester then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs with questions that would probably veer a little too close toward editorializing than other reporters in the briefing room would be comfortable asking. 

...

But Thomas was holding the White House accountable long before the Obama administration. Getting her start in the Kennedy administration, Thomas broke up the boy's club that was the White House Press Corps and was the first female reporter to cover the president, rather than the first lady.

In 1962, she pressed Kennedy to skip the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association unless it were open to women. After he said he wouldn't attend, the dinner for the first time admitted women.

One of my major regrets is that I never initiated a conversation with Thomas during the times I saw her in the White House briefing room or the press area. Our time that coincided covering the White House in 2009 was very short. Also, I was a little intimidated as I was still getting my bearings. Lesson to all: If you see someone you admire, take the opportunity to speak to them before it's too late.

You can check out the full article, HERE

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Comments

  1. Kyler, Do not feel to terrible as Helen was no friend of the LGBT community, she was very out spoken on very conservative values, as well as being anti-Semitic. Her views were hers and she cared little for minority rights. Pick someone of value to admire.

    Posted by: bructer | Jul 21, 2013 4:45:34 PM


  2. @Bructer

    Show us your evidence that she was either homophobic of anti-Semetic.

    She was *not* anti-Semetic. She was a Semite herself. Don't confuse being anti-Semetic with being critical of the government and policies of Israel.

    Posted by: Eric | Jul 21, 2013 5:28:18 PM


  3. She's said that there was *no* anti-Semitism since the end of WWII. Riiiiight. And she favored a one-state solution, meaning no Israel, only Palestine. The jewish people in the area could go back to "where they came from," the countries that nearly anniahalted them, like Poland.

    Neither side in the Middle East mess is blameless. But for a journalist to advocate that all Jewish people should be expelled from the Middle East is one of the more extreme views I've heard in solving the problem.

    Its ok though. She embodied that Woody Allen line from Annie Hall: "I'm a bigot. Right. But for left."

    Posted by: Anon | Jul 21, 2013 6:18:29 PM


  4. "Show us your evidence that she was either homophobic of anti-Semetic."

    She unequivocally stated that Israeli Jews should leave Israel.

    One can level harsh criticism at Israel, but advocating that Jews should be exiled from the Middle East is anti-Semitic.

    Posted by: Nat | Jul 21, 2013 8:54:42 PM


  5. @Anon

    If you read analysis of what she said, specifically what Paul Jay said in the Huffington Post, you'll see that one of the more interesting things that she pointed out was that the reason so many Jews ended up pushing the Palestinians out of their homeland was because the "American, Canadian and British governments wouldn't drop their anti-Jewish quotas even after the horrors of the genocide were fully exposed (let's talk about some real anti-Semites)."

    What Thomas pointed out, was that
    after forcing the Palestinians out of their own lands because no one else would take them, the Israeli Jews were now treating the Palestinians in some ways as the Nazis treated them. Just a couple of days after she said that, the Israeli government fired on an aid flotilla that killed at least nine activists as their boat sailed in international waters.

    Posted by: Eric | Jul 21, 2013 9:04:25 PM


  6. Wow! A gay man used to watch the elderly Helen Thomas walk around the White House press room.

    In other important LGBT news, a lesbian from Maryland reports having seen Helen Thomas at the local Walgreens several time during 2006, but says they never spoke.

    And there is an online interview with Brian Johnson, the owner of a Washington DC gay bar that Helen Thomas drove past -- without speaking to him -- every day on her way to work throughout the 1990's.

    Stay tuned to this channel for timely reports on the most tangential, vaguely gay-related news available anywhere!

    Posted by: Buster | Jul 21, 2013 9:25:18 PM


  7. Helen Thomas may have flown under the radar for a long time, but she was and apparently always had been a scumbag. May she burn in hell. (I don't believe in hell but she probably did)

    Posted by: Hagatha | Jul 21, 2013 10:10:29 PM


  8. Actually, she was right about Israel. It's obviously a done deal now and just a bit politically incorrect of Helen to bring it up at this point.

    It was only remnants of Imperialism and maybe a bit of guilt about what other countries like the US didn't do when they could have, including no one accepting a whole boatload of Jews. And the whole Christian heritage being based on the history of Jews, which of course Jesus was one of. And well meaning Jews and everyone else in the US and elsewhere after the genocide of WWII. Zionists wanted Israel long before, but it was all that and more that finally did it.

    Native Americans also think North America is theirs, and their religion and culture is very much grounded in the landscape. Shouldn't we give it all back to them?

    Posted by: emjayay | Jul 22, 2013 1:43:40 AM


  9. Reportedly, when started out in DC in the fifties, male reporters simply assumed she was sleeping her way to the top and nicknamed her "the whore". The AP in particular was a vipers den of career climbers. Her view of the presidency was that "it was the only thing that really mattered", and rather than question the motives or veracity of presidents, she questioned their policies against a litmus test of social justice and international collaboration. Almost never in her long career at the White House did she ask questions in policy neutral terms. She also had almost no regard for congress, and almost never reported on them. When she reported on the Supreme Court it was almost always through a policy lens. Essentially, she was not so much a reporter as an early blogger and unselfaware editorialist.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 22, 2013 11:10:12 AM


  10. Helen Thomas was not "anti-semitic". She was anti-Zionist. There is a big difference. Google the difference and learn something. She was very critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and felt that the Israeli government and its acquiescence to the Zionists (Zionism is an ideology/theology that claims superiority to all others) caused the founding principles of Israel to be betrayed.

    As for being anti-gay, that's another myth. She was very gay-friendly and understood that there is a connection between the institutional discrimination against women and gay people.

    Helen Thomas was not perfect. She had her flaws, both personal and professional. But she was courageous and bold, took no sh*t from anyone, told truth to power and held her head high throughout her career.

    R.I.P. Helen Thomas. The world is a lesser place without you.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 22, 2013 11:27:54 AM


  11. Give us a break! This ugly old hag (ugly outside and in) was a rabid anti semite. To say that Jews should return to Poland scene of the worst holocaust in history is PURE ANTI SEMITISM.

    Send her carcass back to Lebanon!! The world is a much nicer place without her

    Posted by: Dave Allen | Jul 22, 2013 6:35:50 PM


  12. How very wrong this ugly Arab was when she said Jews rule America. She is (WAS) the living proof that they don't! If they did then they would surely have been able to despatch this scum bag back to Lebanon

    Posted by: dave allen | Jul 23, 2013 5:29:56 PM


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