Howard Kurtz just couldn't resist taking another whack at Helen Thomas for the second week in a row for her statement that the Israelis should get out of Palestine and go home, which led to her resignation. While I don't agree with what Helen said, it's really pathetic to watch the Villager's paint her as "whacky" and the "crazy uncle" of the White House Press Corps. Helen made a whole lot of people in the Villager establishment uncomfortable with the questions she asked and wasn't always polite when she asked them, but I'll take that any day of the week before one of them worrying about pissing someone off because they might not get invited to the next beltway cocktail party or the person they're asking questions of might not want to appear in their next "exclusive" interview on one of their bobble head shows on Sundays.
Howard Kurtz actually had the gall to ask if it's "the role of the journalists, even opinion journalists, to denounce the war in Iraq, to accuse the administration of killing civilians?" Howard, if it's not the role of journalists to ask those sorts of questions, then who else do you think is going to do it?
The woman had more journalistic integrity than any of this bunch and if we had a few more Helen Thomases over the years and a few less beltway Villagers posing as journalists that were less worried about looking "whacky" and being disrespectful to the powers that be and more worried about doing their jobs, perhaps we would not be entangled in two endless occupations in the Middle East right now.
Although Kurtz and his panel did admit that we could use more journalists holding the establishment's feet to the fire like Helen did, they did their best to paint her as either extremist and out of the mainstream or slightly senile as they did it. And why in the hell does Howard Kurtz think that Fox Noise hate talker Sean Hannity is someone that deserves to be responded to or that his opinion is worthy of debate? Kurtz was the one leading the way with how this discussion was framed and he really should be ashamed of himself. Howard, when you figure out what it means to be a journalist yourself, you can rightfully criticize Helen. I don't expect that to be happening any time soon.
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about this sad finale for Helen Thomas and what it says about Washington journalism, Dana Milbank, who writes "The Washington Sketch" column for "The Washington Post"; Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief of "The Chicago Sun-Times" and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com; and Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for "The Atlantic."
Dana Milbank, has the White House Press Corps, where Helen Thomas' views have been no secret, been protecting her for years?
DANA MILBANK: Well, protecting here in the sense that there was a great deal of fondness for her because of her history, because she was such an institution. I don't think she's ever said anything quite like this before. I think people will tolerate a stand against Israel as distinct from an anti-Semitic stance, basically, against Jews, which we heard her say there, so it was just shocking to hear that. Now, it wasn't surprising that she held those views, it was shocking that she actually said it, I think.
KURTZ: Lynn Sweet, I know you like and admire Helen Thomas. Do you think she was cut some slack because she was in her '80s?
LYNN SWEET: Well, no, because she ended up losing her job over this --
KURTZ: But before this incident?
SWEET: Well, before this incident, she was a singular person in the White House. People might not know it, but organizations are given seats in the press room, as you know, Howie, not individuals. And she had that seat as a recognition of her career as a trailblazer. So, yes, she was cut slack.
KURTZ: Well, because she had worked for UPI --
SWEET: She had this seat.
KURTZ: -- but then she was a columnist, which ordinarily would not warrant you a front-row seat.
SWEET: Ordinarily, it wouldn't warrant you a seat. You always would have entree. You know, Dana could go to the press room anytime he wants, he just stands on the side. It was very special for Helen to have the seat that was part of her identity.
MILBANK: ABC, NBC, CBS --
MILBANK: -- Helen Thomas.
KURTZ: Dana stands on the side of a lot of events.
SWEET: Right, which is why the debate over who gets the seat is really not one that is parallel to Helen's seat.
KURTZ: The debate over the seat is of interest to about 10 people, and I wish the media would get off of it.
Jeffrey Goldberg, were you surprised by the intensity of the reaction to those anti-Israel remarks to the point where she was basically pressured into retiring?
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