I’ve been meaning to cite White House Press Corps Empress Helen Thomas for months now, but as she just celebrated her 89th birthday in the Briefing Room on Tuesday, it seems now is like a good time.
Thomas, born in Kentucky in 1920, was one of ten children born to Lebanese immigrant parents. Raised mostly in the Detroit area, she attended college at Wayne State University, graduating in 1942, and joined United Press International within a year,as a “women’s reporter” for their radio division.
Over the course of some fifteen years, Thomas worked her way through the dudely ranks to increasingly distinguished assignments, finally landing a job covering the President, then JFK, in 1961. She has reported on every subsequent POTUS (nine in all), and served as UPI’s White House Bureau Chief for over 25 years, until 2000, when she resigned from UPI in protest of its new ownership by the Unification Church (AKA “the Moonies”). Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was barely two months before she found herself back in the West Wing as an employee of Hearst Newspaper syndicate.
In the midst of all the reporting and travelling she’s done, Thomas has also managed to write four books based on her professional experiences and is regularly in demand for speaking engagments and political roundtables.
From her seat in the front row, Thomas’s integrity and longevity as a reporter (more than 65 years!) has earned her an unparalleled professional reputation, and her bravery and tenacity in asking tough questions of important men from both sides of the aisle–though she identifies as liberal and seems to reserve a special animus for Dubya and his ill-begotten war– has gained her my undying respect and admiration.
You can read (or stream) an interview with Helen Thomas from earlier this year by Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman here, or read more on her bio, which is chockablock with awards and honors at Thomas’s own website.
Happy Birthday, Helen Thomas. Obama brought you cupcakes, I send laurels, only because I can’t guarantee single-payer healthcare.