Helen Thomas

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All presidents rail against the press. It goes with the turf.

Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920July 20, 2013) was an American reporter who worked for the Hearst News Service, as a dean of the White House press corps, as a White House correspondent, and King Features Syndicate columnist. Thomas covered every President of the United States from John F. Kennedy to Barack H. Obama II. Perhaps her most famous quote is "Thank you Mister President." This is how practically every presidential news conference was traditionally ended for over 40 years, from Kennedy to Clinton, and the honor was reserved for Helen Thomas to say. The tradition was started by UPI's Merriman Smith during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[1] In 2003, the George W. Bush administration put an end to this tradition.




  • The White House used to belong to the American people. At least that's what I learned from history books and from covering every president starting with John F. Kennedy. But now the 201-year-old Executive Mansion belongs only to a select, elitist group of people, including top government officials, members of Congress and the press corps. They and some others, all of whom are screened in advance, are welcome. But most people are not — not anymore.
    • Hearst newspaper column (November 28, 2001).
  • At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up... My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis? …
    • White House briefing (January 6, 2003)
  • All presidents rail against the press. It goes with the turf.
    • Hearst newspaper column (October 15, 2003).
  • This is the worst president ever. He is the worst president in all of American history.
    • About George W. Bush, said in Los Angeles while at a Society for Professional Journalism banquet event.
    • Published in an article by John Bogert in the Torrance, California Daily Breeze (January 19, 2003).
    • According to Thomas this was supposed to be off the record. The reporter (assumedly Bogert) asked for her autograph after she spoke at the event. As she signed his copy of her book, he said to her, "You look sad?" She responded by saying "Well I am. I'm covering the worst president..."
      • Interview by Adam Holdorf for Real Change News (March 18, 2004).
  • I don't speechify. I know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And that's what I ask. But they get mad at the straight line. I just want to ask a tough question.
    • Interview by Adam Holdorf for Real Change News (March 18, 2004).
  • [I]t took a lot of chutzpah on the part of a lot of newspaper women who came here in the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties to break down the barriers against women reporters. And we couldn’t even become members of the National Press Corps until 1971 — that’s pretty late in the game. We got the vote, which we should’ve been born with, in 1920. Everything we’ve had to struggle for — it’s ridiculous.
    • Interview by Adam Holdorf for Real Change News (March 18, 2004).
  • We've got to break through the wall of secrecy. It's America's fate.
  • It's the arrogance of power. "We're in charge. It's our White House. What the hell are you doing here?" Basically toward the Press. "How dare you question anything we do?" They don't understand that the presidential news conference is the only forum in our society where a president can be questioned. If he's not questioned, he can rule by edict; by government order. He can be a monarch. He can be a dictator, and who is to find out? No. He should be questioned and he should always be able to willingly reply and answer to all questions because these aren't our questions. They're the people's questions.
  • Every President hates the Press. Every president thinks that all information that comes to the White House is their private preserve after they all promise an open administration on the campaign trail, but some are even more secretive than others. Some want to lock down everything.
  • Both Blair and Bush have been found lacking in their credibility. Usually by this time a government would have fallen. I covered two presidents, LBJ and Nixon, who could no longer convince, persuade, or govern, once people had decided they had no credibility, but we seem to be more tolerant now of what I think we should not tolerate.
  • Well it wasn't a formal hanging. It was kind of subtle. I had covered him … his first press conference. He dropped down into the press room and started taking questions and everyone asked about the tax cut and I sort of — Ari Fleischer later told me I blindsided him because I said to him, "Mister President, why don't you respect the wall of separation between church and state?" Well, there's a video of him that is so funny. He jerked back as if he had been hit! I mean both barrels! And he said, "I do respect—" I said, "Well if you did, why would you have a religious office in the White House?" (I'm exaggerating, but anyway) and "you're a secular official." And he said "I am secular." Well, anyway, I got a call from Ari after that. After that there was a formal news conference and I did ask him a Middle East question and it wasn't the question per se. They just don't like my boorishness.
  • Get into the game!
    • Advice to up-and-coming journalists, quoted from "Calling Helen Thomas", Saudi Aramco World (Vol. 57, No. 2, March/April 2006)
  • You don't spread democracy through the barrel of a gun.


  • Helen Thomas
    I think American policy is pro‐Israel. If you take a vote in Congress, maybe you might get five people vote against any further aid to Israel or to continue its occupation. But that's about it. They control— They have vast power.
    Paul Jay
    Who's they?
    Helen Thomas
    The Zionists.
  • David Nesenoff
    Any comments on Israel? We're asking everybody today, any comments on Israel?
    Helen Thomas
    Tell 'em to get the hell out of Palestine.
    David Nesenoff
    Ooh. Any better comments than that?
    Helen Thomas
    Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land, not German and not Poland's.
    David Nesenoff
    So where should they go? What should they do?
    Helen Thomas
    They could go home.
    David Nesenoff
    Where is home?
    Helen Thomas
    Poland. Germany.—
    David Nesenoff
    So the Jews— You're saying Jews should go back to Poland and Germany.
    Helen Thomas
    —and America and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who are lived there for centuries? See?
    David Nesenoff
    Now, are you familiar of the history of that region, and what took place?
    Helen Thomas
    Very much. I'm of Arab background.
    • White House Lawn (May 27, 2010), on American Jewish Heritage Celebration Day
    • Helen Thomas Complete (original), YouTube, 7 June 2010, 0:40, retrieved on November 3, 2010 
  • 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.
  • I paid the price for that, but it was worth it, to speak the truth. The Zionists have to understand that's their country, too. Palestinians were there long before any European Zionists.
  • I can call a president of the United States anything in the book but I can't touch Israel, which has Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. No American would tolerate that -- white-only roads… We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. We are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There's no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is…We're being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.
  • If we could get them back to the '67 borders it certainly would be a triumph, but they're not about to move anywhere. They keep taking and keep bulldozing homes on the West Bank. They have Jewish-only roads. They would never tolerate that here...My view is that you should not create another nation in somebody else's country, and the Palestinians were 85 percent in the majority, until they began the immigration for the Jews and for the Zionists because they had designated Jerusalem as their home, that God gave it to them. Well, I mean, that's— what God? Who? And so forth. Everything like that is just very debatable. Jews have been persecuted all over the world. There's no question about that. Certainly the Nazis—. I mean, it's too horrifying to think of what they did and the silence in the world when it was happening. At the same time, they aren't the only ones who fought in World War II. I had— my brothers, two brothers, were there. All my relatives. Every American was involved. So it isn't a question of the Holocaust was a simple thing going on. The Russians lost 25 million people.
  • Not a secret. It’s very open.
    • Interviewed for the April 2011 issue of Playboy magazine, when asked "Do you actually think there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country [the US]?"

Quotes about Thomas

  • I don't have to answer questions from Helen Thomas.
    • Fidel Castro, in response to a USA Today reporter's question of 'What is the difference between your democracy and our democracy?'.
  • Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot.
  • For several decades, Helen Thomas covered the White House as a reporter for United Press International.... and when the specter of war grew large in 2002, she didn’t hold back. "It’s bombs away for Iraq and on our civil liberties if Bush and his cronies get their way," Thomas said... during a speech at MIT. Looking back on a long career, she said: "I censored myself for fifty years when I was a reporter."
  1. Allen, Mike (February 20, 2007). "Helen Thomas Moving Back After 46 Years Down Front". Politico. Retrieved on June 12, 2010. 
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