June 28, 2007
Glenn Greenwald interviews Helen Thomas, a journalist who has covered every president since Kennedy and brooks no B.S. from the likes of George W. Bush. I’m sad to say, we probably won’t see her like again in the White House press pool:
Two weeks after he became President in the first term, President Bush dropped into our press room, and held an impromptu news conference. He went down the front row, and I was sitting in the front row, and every reporter asked about his pending tax cuts.
But when he got to me, I said: “Mr. President, why don’t you respect the wall between church and state?” And he said: “I do,” and I said: “No, sir, you don’t. Otherwise you would not establish, for the first time in history, a religious office in the White House.” And he drew back, and I said: “you’re secular.” So we had this dialogue.
That afternoon, I got a call from Ari Fleisher, the White House Press Secretary, saying: “What’s the idea of blindsiding the President”?
Well, after that, I did go to a couple news conferences, and I was called on, and I asked the President why he had seen Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, 9 times, but never would give any meeting with Arafat. My questions did not sit well. After that, I was never called on at a News Conference. I would show up but didn’t like being a prop.
And then they put me in the back row, which didn’t matter. What matters is the question. You get one chance at the barrel with the president. You should not let it slide. I mean, they are public servants, presidents are. We pay them. And they should be accountable.
[Other reporters] are nice to me, but I’m not trying to please my peers. I’m trying to get the information that the American people have to know, they have a right to know everything that affects their lives and that is done in their name.
Thomas says that since the Hurricane Katrina debacle, the White House pressers have gotten tougher with the boy emperor and his minions. Debatable. She’s generous enough to include herself when she says “we [the press] have to hang our heads in shame” for enabling the torrent of lies that led to Iraq and other disasters.
But when the final accounting is drawn up on the journalists who covered this most degraded and corrupt of all administrations, Helen Thomas will be among the good guys. That is to say, the small group.