HELEN THOMAS Biography - Polititians


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Name: Helen Thomas                                                                             
Born: 4 August 1920                                                                           
Helen Thomas (born August 4, 1920) is a noted news service reporter, a Hearst                 
Newspapers columnist, and member of the White House Press Corps. She has served               
for 57 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. Her latest               
book is called Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and                 
How It Has Failed the Public.                                                                 
Thomas was born in Winchester, Kentucky, to Lebanese immigrants. She was                       
reared in Detroit, Michigan and attended Wayne University (now Wayne State                     
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 laid off as part of                     
massive cutbacks at the paper.                                                                 
Thomas joined UPI in 1943 and reported 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 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 from 1959–60.         
In November 1960, Thomas 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 as the "Sitting Buddha" and closed                       
presidential press conferences with the tagline "Thank you, Mr. President."                   
Thomas was the only female print journalist to travel with President Richard                   
Nixon to China during his historic trip in 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.                                                                         
She later became White House Bureau Chief for UPI, where she was employed until               
her resignation on May 17, 2000. Previously UPI was acquired by News World                     
Communications, which owns The Washington Times; Thomas has responded to                       
allegations that she quit because of the Times' conservative record by offering               
that News World Communications has 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 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 many questions."                           
On March 21, 2006, Thomas was called upon directly by President Bush for the                   
first time in three years. Thomas asked Bush about the war in Iraq:                           
“ I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused               
the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis               
for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be               
true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you               
stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet—your Cabinet officers,                       
intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it               
wasn't oil—quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?             
Bush responded by discussing the overall "war on terror", and stated as a reason               
for the invasion, that Saddam Hussein chose to deny inspectors and not to                     
disclose. Thomas was criticized by commentators for her exchange with Bush.                   
Thomas has publicly expressed her opinion about 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 sports 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. She                 
also told The Hill "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 opined that many journalists 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, Thomas remarked, "The United                 
States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon.                 
We have that much control with the Israelis... we have gone for collective                     
punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine." Press Secretary Tony Snow                   
responded, "Thank you for the Hezbollah view."                                                 
On July 12, 2007, Thomas accused President Bush of starting the Iraq War as his               
"war of choice" and insisted that he alone could end it anytime he wanted to by               
handing it over to the United Nations.                                                         
Thomas has also been critical of the United States Congress. At a question and                 
answer session held at Drake University on September 27, 2007, Thomas said that               
the "gutless wonder Congress doesn't have the courage to do what it needs to do"               
regarding the war.                                                                             
In a press conference on 5 November 2007, Helen Thomas directly asked Dana                     
Perino, White House spokesperson, about the number of innocents killed in Iraq.               
An obviously upset Perino took offense at Thomas' line of questioning,                         
apparently believing Thomas was suggesting that U.S. forces deliberately killed               
innocent Iraqis, a suggestion she called "absurd and very offensive." Ms Perino               
acknowledged that "To the extent that any innocent Iraqis have been killed [by U.S.           
forces], we have expressed regret for it."                                                     
A December 6, 2007 CNN report by Jeanne Moos showed video of a seating chart of               
reporters covering a press conference given by President Bush concerning reports               
of Iran not having pursued nuclear weapons since 2003. The spot for Thomas was                 
crossed out with an X and she was never called upon.