There will never be another Helen Thomas. She shattered forever one anti-woman journalistic barrier after another in the Washington press corps and rose to the top of her profession’s organizations.
Helen Thomas asked the toughest questions of Presidents and White House press secretaries and over her sixty-two year career took on sexism, racism and ageism. She endured prejudice against her ethnicity — Arab-American — and her breaking the taboo regarding the rights of dispossessed Palestinians.
She also made many friends in journalism and spoke to audiences all over the country about the responsibility of journalists to hold politicians responsible with tough, probing, questions that are asked repeatedly until they are either answered or the politician is unmasked as an unaccountable coward. That is the example she set as a journalist and the recurrent theme in her three books.
Her free spirit, her courageous belief that injustice must be exposed by journalists, her congenial personality and her relentless focus (she asked former President George W. Bush and his press secretary Ari Fleischer dozens of times “Why are we in Iraq?”) will be long remembered.
Her tenacious, forthright approach to journalism stands as a stark contrast to the patsy journalism of too many of her former self-censoring White House press colleagues.
The remarkable combination of skills and perseverance will distinguish Helen Thomas as one of the giants of American journalistic history.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.