Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Helen Thomas was a great reporter, but now it's over

One of my most cherished possessions is a set of two original photographs: one of Richard Nixon standing at the door of the helicopter as he leaves the White House for the last time as president, the other of Nixon sparring with a young Dan Rather.

They are both autographed by Helen Thomas.

I acquired them at a Society of Professional Journalists auction in 1986, and bid on them with the proviso that Helen sign them. She agreed and I bought them. They are original prints that were used in the Baltimore Sun. They are framed so Helen's signature is visible.

I loved Helen Thomas because she was Helen Thomas, a feisty, no-nonsense reporter who asked the questions that so many would not ask.

She also kept her personal life and opinions out of her work. I didn't know she was Lebanese, and didn't care. When I think of Lebanese, I think of Danny Thomas, the beloved comedian who started the St. Jude Cancer Research Hospital that treats all children, Israeli, Lebanese, whatever.

Recently, however, Helen began to let her opinions about the Middle East come out in a nasty, biased way. As a Lebanese, she might be more upset that Syria has used that nation as cannon fodder. The actions of Hezbollah have brought death and destruction to that nation. Years ago, the actions of Yasser Arafat brought war to the Paris of the East, Beirut.

Christians and Muslims fought bitterly for years and the U.S. got involved, much to its regret.

But I don't remember Helen Thomas spewing venom at that time. When she asked a question, it was straight, with no adjectives or hyperbole.

Now, however, it is different and in the past few years, since leaving United Press International (or did UPI leave her?), she has let her personal opinions gush forth with bile. The end was inevitable.

To say Jews should go back to Germany, back to Poland, and then laugh. That doesn't make sense.

I think Helen Thomas has lost the ability to think clearly. She certainly has lost the ability to speak responsibly.

It was time to go and certainly Hearst encouraged her to resign. Whether they demanded her resignation or not I don't know or care. She is out of the spotlight and she can spew her bile wherever she ends up.

I won't speculate about why Ms. Thomas' brains seem scrambled lately.

But as for the pictures on my wall, they will stay there. They were signed by the Helen Thomas of 25 years ago, not the one who did not have the good sense of her old nemesis, Nixon, who knew when to quit.

Helen did not and so much the shame. I hope history is kind to her because for most of her career, she was a courageous and talented reporter, not a crone who didn't know the value of silence.

Until next time...