Saturday, July 20, 2013

Obituaries: Helen Thomas

Pioneer female journalist Helen Thomas, long a fixture on the White House press scene and somebody who asked questions politicians, especially U.S. presidents, often didn't want to answer, has died at the age of 92:

When President George H.W. Bush announced that the defense budget would remain the same after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of communism in Europe, she succinctly asked, “Who’s the enemy?”

“I respect the office of the presidency,” she told Ann McFeatters for a 2006 profile in Ms. magazine, “but I never worship at the shrines of our public servants. They owe us the truth.”

Ms. Thomas had a number of scoops, including her exclusive interviews with Martha Mitchell, which helped expose some aspects of the Watergate scandal. Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, told Thomas in late-night phone calls that she had seen a Nixon campaign strategy book that included plans for Watergate-style operations. Thomas also broke the story that Nixon’s speechwriters were working on a resignation address that he would give the next day.

Her strength was her indefatigable pursuit of hard news, the bread-and-butter staple of the wire services. She arrived at work every morning before dawn and accompanied presidents on overseas trips. She was the only female print reporter to accompany Nixon on his historic visit to China, and later, in her 70s and 80s, she often outdistanced younger reporters on arduous around-the-world travels.

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