The Last Great American Journalist: Helen Thomas

For decades I could count on Helen Thomas to ask the hard questions on her beat as White House correspondent.  The questions which were burning inside me to ask always got spoken by this great American journalist who spoke truth to power fearlessly.  She died yesterday and American journalism will go to the grave with her because there is no one else on the beat who can replace her moral courage.  Rest in peace Helen, a grateful nation mourns.

News & Notes October 22, 2010

Several controversies are distracting from the upcoming election as racism issues take over the national discourse.  Last week conservative NPR news analyst Juan Williams appeared on Fox News, his other gig, to help Bill O’Reilly defend his comments on The View that Muslims attacked us on 9/11 and, therefore, all Muslims are terrorists.  I sure am glad I’m not a Christian considering all the atrocities, genocides and other crimes committed by those of that religion!  Stereotyping everyone of a class, race or group is dangerous and Williams joined O’Reilly in defending such demagoguery.  He was summarily fired by NPR for the ethics violation.  This followed several warnings that his Fox work compromised his work for NPR.

The right wing noise machine geared up in outrage over this issue and Fox gave him a $2 million contract.  It sure is profitable to be a bigot these days.  Where was all this conservative outrage when Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez got fired?  Sanchez was one of the few reasons to watch CNN though what he said was wrong and offensive.  Still, I miss his show.  Its all much ado about nothing.

The other racial controversy surrounds Ginny Thomas, wife of SCOTUS Jurist Clarence Thomas.  She left a mysterious message for Anita Hill asking for an apology for her husband’s inexcusable sexual harassment of his aide and her subsequent testimony about it 19 years ago.  Isn’t it Justice Thomas who owes the apology?

Speaking of Thomas, it seems he and Justice Scalia attended a political organizational meeting sponsored by the Koch brothers of Tea Party fame.  The Kochs have funded most of the ultra right wing operations for years and have pumped millions into the Tea Party and various front groups.  Is it really proper for sitting Justices to engage in blatant partisan activity outside of Bush v Gore?

Meanwhile the NAACP has issued a report detailing racism inside the Tea Party.  This also is getting pushback by the right wing who doesn’t want to confuse voters about its agenda directly before the election.  Of course the fact white supremacists are documented to be involved in the fringe groups doesn’t seem to count as racism.  I suppose this is simply more evidence that tea baggers live in some parallel universe where reality doesn’t exist.

Jim Gerlach got caught lying about support he’s getting.  It seems he lied to a reporter asking about an $85,000 effort done for him and reported in public documents.  The Congressman should realize lying about something easily verifiable makes him appear stupid.  It also shows his true side:  someone wiling to say or do anything to win re-election.

State Senate candidate Ruth Damsker (12th) has a neat animated ad about her opponent Stewart Greenleaf.  The incumbent used to be the kind of moderate Republican who worked across the aisle and got things done.  Not lately.  Greenleaf has become a radical extremist unwilling to compromise.  The GOP controlled state Senate has blocked budgets and just killed a severance tax on shale drilling for natural gas.  Pennsylvania, starved for revenue resources, is already out $100 million while energy companies remove a precious resource belonging to Pennsylvanians.  They aren’t paying a dime while destroying local infrastructure, polluting water supplies and paying off politicians to allow them to continue unregulated.  Stewart Greenleaf has become part of the problem in Harrisburg.

Republican State Representative candidate Justin Simmons is under investigation for accepting help from groups who haven’t reported their financial involvement in his race unseating Karen Beyer last May.  The race in Allentown saw two organizations, Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania and Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania spend money on Simmons’ behalf.  In fact they spent tens of thousands of dollars influencing the primary election and have not reported those or the sources of those funds as required by state law.  How does Justin think he can be a lawmaker when he doesn’t respect or obey the law?

Helen Thomas’ Gaffe

Helen Thomas ended a notable and distinguished career yesterday following a gaffe of monumental proportions.  Though I understand how a Lebanese-American can be outraged by the actions of Israel to suggest that Jews return to Germany and Poland is beyond the pale.  Thomas served a the leader of the White House press corps and grilled Presidents and their spokespersons for decades in the interest of the public good.   Unfortunately she goes out on a very sad note and I hope this isn’t the Helen Thomas people remember.

I will remember the tough questioner who sat in the front row until her questions relegated George W. Bush to demote her to the back of the room so he wouldn’t have to respond.  She led the grilling over lies which led us into war in Iraq and on dozens of other issues since John F. Kennedy sat in the Oval Office.  She trailblazed a path for women journalists so today it isn’t at all unusual to see females in the highest levels of both print and broadcast journalism.  That is what Helen Thomas should be remembered for and not for some unfortunate answer caught on video.

If people think a columnist should be dismissed or forced to retire for such outrageous remarks why on earth are we compelled to listen to Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck?  Al three routinely say things as offensive and outrageous as what Thomas spoke.  Why is it that only when such utterances are directed at Israel is there such a hue and cry?  Beck routinely invokes Nazism and images of that era and no one hold shim accountable.  Pat Robertson is the worst bigot and anti-everything we have but he continues having platforms from which to speak his hate messages.  If what Helen Thomas said was so outrageous (and it was) that she was forced to quit then we have to force these others to follow her out the door.