White House journalist Helen Thomas remembered as a trailblazer
She asked the tough questions, always sat front and center and drew the president's attention, brought a sense of history and perspective to her reporting and blazed a trail for female journalist to come.But above all, she was intelligent, honest and brought real insight to the worlds she reported.
"Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Helen Thomas. Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism," President Barack Obama said in a statement.
"She never failed to keep presidents - myself included - on their toes. What made Helen the 'Dean of the White House Press Corps' was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account," he added.Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton said in a statement that Thomas was "a pioneering journalist" who added "more than her shares of cracks to the glass ceiling."
"Her work was extraordinary because of her intelligence, her lively spirit and great sense of humor, and most importantly her commitment to the role of a strong press in a healthy democracy," the Clintons said in the statement.
Female journalists took to Twitter to thank the woman who many said helped shatter the perception that political journalism was a profession only suited for bourbon-quaffing men.
“Helen Thomas made it possible for all of us who followed: woman pioneer journalist broke barriers died today,” tweeted NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.
“Any woman who has had the privilege of sitting in the front row of the White House briefing room owes huge debt of gratitude to Helen Thomas,” tweeted Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press.
“RIP Helen Thomas - died this morning at 92. Amazing trail blazer, fearless journalist and friend & mentor to so many women reporter,” Judy Woodruff, host of PBS Newshour, tweeted.
Thomas was also remembered fondly by those who faced her brash style of questioning in the White House briefing room.
“Rest in peace, Helen Thomas. First day I ever took the podium she came to encourage me,” tweeted Dana Perino, who served as press secretary to President George W. Bush.
She loved her job, and Thomas' colleagues said it showed in all of the 49 years she spent as a member of the White House press corps.
“I asked Helen Thomas about her life choices she said, 'I would still be a reporter. I consider that my greatest decision in life,'" tweeted CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer.
Thomas career ended in 2010 when she abruptly retired after saying Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine."
“Helen Thomas died Saturday in D.C. Glass ceiling breaking journalist--1st female Gridiron member. Later controversial. Rest in Peace,” tweeted Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet.
"Women and men who've followed in the press corps all owe a debt of gratitude for the work Helen did and the doors she opened," White House Correspondents Association President Steven Thomma said in a statement. "All of our journalism is the better for it."
Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920 – July 20, 2013) was an American author and news service reporter, member of the White House press corps and opinion columnist. She worked for the United Press and post-1958 successor United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau manager. She was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. She covered the administrations of eleven U.S. presidents—from the final years of the Eisenhower administration to the second year of the Obama administration.
Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club. She wrote six books; her latest, with co-author Craig Crawford, is Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do (2009). Thomas retired from Hearst Newspapers on June 7, 2010, following controversial comments she made about Israel, Israeli Jews and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.