Commentary Magazine


Topic: White House Correspondents’ Association

Bemoaning the Bigot’s Retirement

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  — e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  — e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

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White House Hopes Someone Else Will Clean Up This Mess, Too

Three more Jewish organizations have come out with statements condemning Helen Thomas’s remarks. B’nai B’rith’s statement contains this:

“Thomas’ comments are contemptible,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany—site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history—is beyond offensive. . .These vile comments, unfortunately, are the culmination of Thomas’ ongoing anti-Israel sentiments that she kept thinly veiled over the years,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There should be no place for her in a news organization. Her comments go beyond commentary and land well in the camp that will stop at nothing to delegitimize Israel.”

B’nai B’rith calls on Hearst to dismiss Thomas immediately.

The American Israeli Action Coalition put out a news release that reads in part:

“As Americans living in Israel, we are outraged at Ms. Thomas’s remarks which we feel are directed at us,” said AIAC Chairman Harvey Schwartz. “The remarks are a direct attack on American Israelis. Not only are they based on ignorance of history, but are the height of vicious anti-Semitism. They are beneath contempt. Furthermore, Ms. Thomas’s lame excuse of an “apology” contains not one word of remorse for the substance of her odious remarks.”

“AIAC joins with Bnai Brith International, the Anti Defamation League and other prominent Americans in calling on the Hearst Corporation to dismiss Thomas immediately,” continued Chairman Schwartz. “In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association should immediately cancel her White House press credentials. The failure of either of such organizations to do will be proof positive that it agrees with Ms. Thomas’s vile comments.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement includes this:

Helen Thomas’ despicable anti-Semitic statements must not be tolerated. She should be fired by Hearst News and barred from the White House press corps. There is no way such vicious denial of Jewish nationhood and connection to the Jewish homeland would be tolerated if such statements were uttered in respect of any other people.

Helen Thomas’ long record of hostile questioning and grandstanding speeches in the guise of questions regarding Israel at White House press conferences over many years indicates only too clearly that Thomas has long harbored deep hostility towards Israel which she has now revealed to go even further – denying Jewish nationhood and the Jewish right to a sovereign state. She is clearly an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not a matter of mere criticism of Israel, which people are free to exercise, but of fostering hatred against Jews. Helen Thomas should be fired, not only for her unvarnished bigotry, but because she has made it unequivocally clear that she is deeply biased and unable to report with any semblance of objectivity. Helen Thomas would certainly condemn and reject anyone who would have tried to tell her parents, who were Lebanese, that they should go back to Lebanon. She would not tolerate it if someone told her that, since she is of Lebanese ethnicity, she should go back to Lebanon.

The White House remains mum. The administration no doubt hopes that Hearst will take care of this mess. But the White House has its own responsibility and is making its own views apparent by its silence: the Obama administration simply doesn’t care.

Three more Jewish organizations have come out with statements condemning Helen Thomas’s remarks. B’nai B’rith’s statement contains this:

“Thomas’ comments are contemptible,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany—site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history—is beyond offensive. . .These vile comments, unfortunately, are the culmination of Thomas’ ongoing anti-Israel sentiments that she kept thinly veiled over the years,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There should be no place for her in a news organization. Her comments go beyond commentary and land well in the camp that will stop at nothing to delegitimize Israel.”

B’nai B’rith calls on Hearst to dismiss Thomas immediately.

The American Israeli Action Coalition put out a news release that reads in part:

“As Americans living in Israel, we are outraged at Ms. Thomas’s remarks which we feel are directed at us,” said AIAC Chairman Harvey Schwartz. “The remarks are a direct attack on American Israelis. Not only are they based on ignorance of history, but are the height of vicious anti-Semitism. They are beneath contempt. Furthermore, Ms. Thomas’s lame excuse of an “apology” contains not one word of remorse for the substance of her odious remarks.”

“AIAC joins with Bnai Brith International, the Anti Defamation League and other prominent Americans in calling on the Hearst Corporation to dismiss Thomas immediately,” continued Chairman Schwartz. “In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association should immediately cancel her White House press credentials. The failure of either of such organizations to do will be proof positive that it agrees with Ms. Thomas’s vile comments.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement includes this:

Helen Thomas’ despicable anti-Semitic statements must not be tolerated. She should be fired by Hearst News and barred from the White House press corps. There is no way such vicious denial of Jewish nationhood and connection to the Jewish homeland would be tolerated if such statements were uttered in respect of any other people.

Helen Thomas’ long record of hostile questioning and grandstanding speeches in the guise of questions regarding Israel at White House press conferences over many years indicates only too clearly that Thomas has long harbored deep hostility towards Israel which she has now revealed to go even further – denying Jewish nationhood and the Jewish right to a sovereign state. She is clearly an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not a matter of mere criticism of Israel, which people are free to exercise, but of fostering hatred against Jews. Helen Thomas should be fired, not only for her unvarnished bigotry, but because she has made it unequivocally clear that she is deeply biased and unable to report with any semblance of objectivity. Helen Thomas would certainly condemn and reject anyone who would have tried to tell her parents, who were Lebanese, that they should go back to Lebanon. She would not tolerate it if someone told her that, since she is of Lebanese ethnicity, she should go back to Lebanon.

The White House remains mum. The administration no doubt hopes that Hearst will take care of this mess. But the White House has its own responsibility and is making its own views apparent by its silence: the Obama administration simply doesn’t care.

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Helen Thomas Should Go, Says Lanny Davis

Lanny Davis, Clinton adviser and stalwart Democrat, joins Ari Fleischer in calling for Helen Thomas to be booted. He has released a statement, which reads:

Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot. This not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.

However, her statement that  Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic  stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the “land of Israel” — one that began  2,600 years with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans.

If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?

Does anyone doubt that my friends Ann Compton, head of the WHCA,  and Joe Lockhart, who believe in the First Amendment right of free expression as much as I do, would be as tolerant and protective of Helen’s privileges and honors in the White House press room as they appear to be if she had been asking Blacks to return to Africa? Or Native Americans to Asia and South America, from which they came 8,000 or more years ago? I doubt it.

Of course Helen has the right as a private citizen under the First Amendment to speak her mind, even as an anti-Jewish bigot — but not as a member, much less privileged member with a reserved seat, in the WH press corps.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Where is the rest of the media, the White House Correspondents Association, and the White House? As to the latter, no response to my inquiry has been forthcoming. Perhaps, the White House is hoping — you know, like with the BP spill — that it can dodge responsibility for this one. But it is their credentials Helen Thomas uses and their briefing room in which she sits. What say you, Mr. President?

UPDATE: Helen Thomas gets dumped by her agent.

Lanny Davis, Clinton adviser and stalwart Democrat, joins Ari Fleischer in calling for Helen Thomas to be booted. He has released a statement, which reads:

Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot. This not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.

However, her statement that  Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic  stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the “land of Israel” — one that began  2,600 years with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans.

If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?

Does anyone doubt that my friends Ann Compton, head of the WHCA,  and Joe Lockhart, who believe in the First Amendment right of free expression as much as I do, would be as tolerant and protective of Helen’s privileges and honors in the White House press room as they appear to be if she had been asking Blacks to return to Africa? Or Native Americans to Asia and South America, from which they came 8,000 or more years ago? I doubt it.

Of course Helen has the right as a private citizen under the First Amendment to speak her mind, even as an anti-Jewish bigot — but not as a member, much less privileged member with a reserved seat, in the WH press corps.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Where is the rest of the media, the White House Correspondents Association, and the White House? As to the latter, no response to my inquiry has been forthcoming. Perhaps, the White House is hoping — you know, like with the BP spill — that it can dodge responsibility for this one. But it is their credentials Helen Thomas uses and their briefing room in which she sits. What say you, Mr. President?

UPDATE: Helen Thomas gets dumped by her agent.

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Why Shouldn’t Helen Thomas Be Expelled from the White House Press Corps?

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

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The Nasty Presidential Comic

Pete and I recently commented on Obama’s unfortunately snippy tone and nasty approach to his political adversaries. The evidence continues to mount that this president is lacking in basic graciousness and possesses, even for a politician, an overabundance of arrogance. The Washington Post reports on his comedy routine at the Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend:

Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Obama went all Don Rickles on a broad range of topics and individuals: Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the news media, Jay Leno, and Republicans Michael Steele, Scott Brown, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine.

It did not go unnoticed by those who expect the president to be self-deprecating and ingratiating at these events:

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin, an author and speechwriter for politicians in both parties, and a gag writer for three Republican presidents (Reagan and Bushes I and II). “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Presidents past have generally hewed to that tradition, even when they were under intense criticism or were deeply unpopular.

In isolation, one night of barbed humor doesn’t amount to much. But when seen in conjunction with his general lack of respect for adversaries and his nonstop attacks on everyone from Sarah Palin to Fox News to his predecessor, one comes away with a picture of a thin-skinned and rather nasty character. It’s not an attractive personality in a president, and he may regret having failed to extend a measure of kindness and magnanimity that we have come to expect from presidents.

Pete and I recently commented on Obama’s unfortunately snippy tone and nasty approach to his political adversaries. The evidence continues to mount that this president is lacking in basic graciousness and possesses, even for a politician, an overabundance of arrogance. The Washington Post reports on his comedy routine at the Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend:

Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Obama went all Don Rickles on a broad range of topics and individuals: Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the news media, Jay Leno, and Republicans Michael Steele, Scott Brown, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine.

It did not go unnoticed by those who expect the president to be self-deprecating and ingratiating at these events:

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin, an author and speechwriter for politicians in both parties, and a gag writer for three Republican presidents (Reagan and Bushes I and II). “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Presidents past have generally hewed to that tradition, even when they were under intense criticism or were deeply unpopular.

In isolation, one night of barbed humor doesn’t amount to much. But when seen in conjunction with his general lack of respect for adversaries and his nonstop attacks on everyone from Sarah Palin to Fox News to his predecessor, one comes away with a picture of a thin-skinned and rather nasty character. It’s not an attractive personality in a president, and he may regret having failed to extend a measure of kindness and magnanimity that we have come to expect from presidents.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the media having buyers remorse too? “Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he asked for the meeting ‘to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.'”

A story about an Iraq vet, the Yankees and a rabbi. Honest.

David Ignatius suggests that if Obama is looking for “big ideas to shape its foreign policy,” he should consider promoting freedom of the press. Hasn’t Ignatius heard? Obama isn’t much interested in promoting any sort of freedom. It’s too much like George Bush, I suppose.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds Shermanesque about 2012.

One ludicrous nuclear summit begets another one: “Iran opened an ‘alternative’ nuclear disarmament summit in Tehran on Saturday, bringing together representatives of 60 countries including Russia and China to slam U.S. nuclear policy and encourage nations to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Substantial Republican gains are inevitable, with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible. We’ve moved 44 seats toward the Republicans and only 4 toward the Democrats.”

By the time he’s done, he will have alienated everyone in the state: “Some of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers are warning that they will no longer support him if he bolts the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent. … If he abandons the GOP race, a group of his most prominent supporters indicate they will not follow him.”

Barbara Boxer isn’t entirely clueless: “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats must match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm or face the consequences in November. ‘At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party,’ Boxer said.”

Is the media having buyers remorse too? “Ed Chen, a White House correspondent for Bloomberg News who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said he asked for the meeting ‘to clear the air because in my 10-plus years at the White House, rarely have I sensed such a level of anger, which is wide and deep, among members over White House practices and attitude toward the press.'”

A story about an Iraq vet, the Yankees and a rabbi. Honest.

David Ignatius suggests that if Obama is looking for “big ideas to shape its foreign policy,” he should consider promoting freedom of the press. Hasn’t Ignatius heard? Obama isn’t much interested in promoting any sort of freedom. It’s too much like George Bush, I suppose.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds Shermanesque about 2012.

One ludicrous nuclear summit begets another one: “Iran opened an ‘alternative’ nuclear disarmament summit in Tehran on Saturday, bringing together representatives of 60 countries including Russia and China to slam U.S. nuclear policy and encourage nations to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Stuart Rothenberg: “Substantial Republican gains are inevitable, with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible. We’ve moved 44 seats toward the Republicans and only 4 toward the Democrats.”

By the time he’s done, he will have alienated everyone in the state: “Some of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers are warning that they will no longer support him if he bolts the Republican Party to run for the Senate as an independent. … If he abandons the GOP race, a group of his most prominent supporters indicate they will not follow him.”

Barbara Boxer isn’t entirely clueless: “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats must match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm or face the consequences in November. ‘At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party party,’ Boxer said.”

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