Helen Thomas shows the press how it's done

The White House correspondent educates Elle magazine on Iraq, Nixon and flirting in the press corps.


Page Rockwell
June 15, 2006 9:02PM (UTC)

Score! The July issue of Elle features a fun Q&A with White House press corps veteran and Broadsheet idol Helen Thomas, who's currently promoting a new book. There's no link on Elle's site, so I'm excerpting a few shining examples of Thomas' take-the-high-road class and quick wit:

Elle writer Andrew Goldman: Your book very specifically singles out past heroes in journalism, like Edward R. Murrow and Ernie Pyle, but refrains from identifying those you call "lapdogs," who didn't sufficiently question Bush on his reasons for invading Iraq.

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Helen Thomas: That's because I think the term applies to all of us. We all defaulted on the country and the government by not challenging the White House in the run-up to the war. We gave away our only weapon, which is skepticism.

Goldman: Why the rash of, uh, lapdogism?

Thomas: September 11 scared everyone. And I think the reporters knew that the briefings were on television and that people watching might consider them un-American and unpatriotic if they asked tough questions. That segued into the war, where the feeling was we'd be jeopardizing the troops if we inquired deeply. I didn't feel that way, though. I was saying "Why should we go to war and kill thousands of people to get one man?"

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Goldman:Do you suppose the President has a nickname for you?

Thomas: I'm assuming. But it's probably unprintable.

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Goldman: Who in the White House press corps flirts with you the most?

Thomas: Nobody.

Goldman: Oh, Helen. I find that very hard to believe.

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Thomas: Are you kidding? Where do you get these questions?

Goldman: Fox News' Brit Hume compared you to "a nutty aunt in the attic." Would you like to call him something nasty?

Thomas: No. I think it was an unfair comment, but c'est la guerre.

And there the interview ends. She is so awesomely in charge. I'm swooning over Thomas' decision to offer substantive answers to substantive questions (Iraq), smart ripostes in response to sly digs (Bush's nickname for her) and flat refusal to engage in coy flattery or name-dropping (the who-flirts-with-you inanity). And the placid refusal to slam smarmy Hume! What a broad. I'm going to be saying "c'est la guerre" all day. Check out Elle for (a little) more from Thomas, including her thoughts on Hurricane Katrina, her least favorite president (OK, it's Nixon) and which president she'd trust to babysit her pet goldfish.


Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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