You’d have to be friends with Helen Thomas to know for certain, but we’ll assume the former UPI White House correspondent/Hearst columnist was kind, gracious and generally good to be with around the office. Squaring that version of Thomas with the one that said Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” forcing her abrupt retirement last week, clearly is upsetting to Thomas’ friends and colleagues. There’s been an outpouring of regret for her self-inflicted demise — generally, that her remarks didn’t reflect her true nature.
Others contend otherwise. The fact remains that until Thomas’ self-destruction, too many dismissed her growing public bias, which The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes signaled a shift from journalism to activism. Others have noted how Thomas’ determination to make little speeches followed by uncomfortable questions made her a joke, easy for officials to ignore — a crutch, even, for a White House press secretary needing some levity to change the subject from other more serious, problematic lines of questioning.
Maybe it is too bad Thomas’ long career ended as it did, but as Kurtz notes, she long ago “shed any pretense of fair-mindedness,” which is important even in someone paid to express opinions. Maybe friends and colleagues sad to see her gone now should’ve done more to pull her back from the line she so clearly crossed recently. If there’s to be concern, how about some for David Nesenoff, the camera-toting rabbi whose question to Thomas about Israel apparently lit her fuse. Nesenoff reportedly has received more than 25,000 e-mails — many obscene, anti-Semitic and hate-filled — simply because he asked a question and got the explosive answer on video.