What the Helen Happened?
Count me among the many who were profoundly offended at the remarks uttered by the curiously curmudgeon – White House correspondent Helen Thomas – to Rabbi David Nesenoff and his 17-year-old son, on May 27.
Her unfortunate remarks that the Jews who live in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home…” came at, of all places, the Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House.
Please note that I was offended, but certainly not surprised, as I have considered Ms. Thomas to have been an anti-Semite for years.
A public outcry quickly followed after the flip-camera video of her comments was posted on Rabbi Nesenhoff’s website, RabbiLive, on June 3.
According to Michael Calderone reporting for Yahoo! News, the release was delayed because Rabbi Nesenoff’s son, “Adam, the webmaster for RabbiLive, had to get through finals first.”
Ms. Thomas, who will celebrate her 90th birthday August 4, began her storied career in 1943. (For more on Ms. Thomas and her career, read “Press' Grand Dame Coming to McDaniel,” published in The Tentacle on April 11, 2007. Hopefully she will be remembered for accomplishments and not her demise.
Ms. Thomas subsequently issued an odd apology.
“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.’’
Writing for RedState, Tabitha Hale expressed the opinion of many that public apologies like Ms. Thomas’ “only come after you get caught. They hold no weight, because everyone knows that had you not been exposed for the adulterer/thief/anti-Semite that you are, you would have gone on your merry way and not given the situation a second thought. There is no reason to believe that Helen is even remotely apologetic for her comments.”
On June 7, her current employer, Hearst News Service announced that Ms. Thomas was retiring – effectively immediately.
News of her retirement is being lamented by the traditional liberal media and hailed by conservatives. However, here’s the thing. I’m a proud supporter of free speech, even when the views expressed under the protection of free speech are abhorrent.
Candidly, I will not lose any sleep over Ms. Thomas finally receiving the just desserts of her aberrant remarks – but it is not the stuff of celebration. In spite of her remarkable accomplishments decades ago, she has been an embarrassment for all fair-minded journalists in recent years.
Why did it take such a reprehensible remark for the country to collectively say we had enough already of Ms. Thomas, of whom, James Taranto characterized in The Wall Street Journal as “American journalism's crazy old aunt in the attic… She loathes the state of Israel…”
Why was she allowed to keep her seat in the White House briefing room in recent years? If the likes of Ms. Thomas are allowed to be a White House correspondent, why not give Rush Limbaugh a seat also?
The lamentations over Ms. Thomas’s demise by the likes of CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric was to be expected. After all, according to Ms. Thomas - when Ms. Couric was roasted at the American News Women's Club 15th gala on May 20, 2009 – Ms. Couric “saved the country” with her interview of vice-presidential candidate now-former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Can one only imagine the response of the limousine liberal elite if a trailblazing conservative journalist of similar longstanding accomplishment had been silenced?
As for Ms. Thomas, unfortunately, she never got the memo to always leave the party while you are having a good time, or always leave the party before you are asked to leave.
One could debate the propriety of the Hearst organization letting her go; however, in the long run, it does not take a fortune teller to determine that Ms. Thomas has long-lost her marketability as an asset. Why did it take so long for Hearst News to figure that out?
Here’s the rub. Ms. Thomas’ days have been numbered ever since the day President Barack Obama took office. As long as she was excoriating President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Chaney, the liberal media and the left thought she was special.
However, as early as July 1, 2009, when it became widely reported that she had equally harsh remarks for the Obama Administration, the wheels started to come off the cart. It was then that Ms. Thomas compared President Obama’s attempts to control the press to the approach of President Richard M. Nixon.
Then, just recently she asked President Obama: “Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are you 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.’ ”
The party for Ms. Thomas and her liberal media colleagues was over a long time ago. The marketplace has been leaving the traditional media in droves.
However, the slow and painful demise of the traditional media is not the stuff of celebration. In the end we all lose. What the marketplace wants is fair and accurate scrutiny of the news. Ms. Thomas was not, in and of herself, the problem but rather the personification of a pervasive persistent malaise.
Ms. Thomas’ retirement is only the first step, not because she practiced free speech, but because the collective marketplace has tired of her use of free speech to go relatively unchallenged and artificially supported by a traditional media that just does not get it.
Hopefully the country will wake up before we have to endure many more cringe-worthy moments like the hangover we are suffering as a result of the latest eruption of Mount St. Helen.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.