Helen Thomas: Presidential annoyance, journalism’s champion, in 1997

Monday, August 8, 2016
Helen Thomas,
Agnes Bryen Meyerson,
Lisa Meyerson (now Siemer) in 1964.
(Photo: Miles Meyerson)
For more than half a century, groundbreaking reporter Helen Thomas made sure U.S. presidents didn’t get away with much.

As the Washington Post noted in her 2013 obituary, her “sharp questions from the front row of the White House press room … annoyed 10 presidents.”

My family took special pride in watching her question authority and break the media world’s and Washington’s glass ceilings for women, because she was a high school friend of my mom and a college classmate of my dad—both of whom had died by the time I interviewed Thomas reporter to reporter.

Toward the end of her career, in 2010, she said something for which she later apologized. She suggested Israelis “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to “Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else.” That triggered a wave of critical reaction, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ much-debated decision to retire its lifetime achievement award in her name.

But her advocacy for the importance of journalism endures, as you’ll hear here in my Oct. 21, 1997, interview with Helen Thomas.

Check out more of my conversations with thought-leaders through the years on this website, in Apple Music, on Spotify, via your favorite podcast player and at Chicago Public Square.

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