Category Archives: Helen Thomas

Documentary on Helen Thomas

Rory Kennedy has produced a documentary for HBO on one of the best journalists to ever cover the White House, bar none.

Helen Thomas has covered the W.H. since 1961 and grilled nine Presidents. The documentary is called: Thank You Mr. President. Helen has been ill since May of this year, and hasn’t written a column since then. From the Editor and Publisher article on the HBO documentary:

“The movie is a fantastic narrative of Helen’s fantastic career,” said Charles Lewis, Washington bureau chief for Hearst Newspapers, where Thomas has written a column since 2000. “It is rich in history, rich in humor and the press’s relationship with the White House.”

Some Helen moments from the movie:

“I think that Presidents deserve to be questioned. Maybe irreverently, most of the time. Bring ‘em down a size,” she says in the film, according to HBO. “You see a president, ask a question. You have one chance in the barrel. Don’t blow it.”

“Access to a President doesn’t mean you’re gonna get the truth,” Thomas adds. “We had tremendous access when I started covering the White House. We realize now that we could walk right down the street, Main Street, with Jimmy Carter, we could walk with LBJ, side by side, even though there would be the usual secret service agents.

“We didn’t have the same code that you wouldn’t be able to get near a President, or they would feel threatened because of all of the security provisions, and so forth, that really have kept the press in their place,” she adds in the film. “So, it was very different. You really felt that you got to know the person. And, I think that’s gone.”

It doesn’t start until August 18th, but I love her work so much, that as soon as I heard, I had to put something up about it. We need more Helen Thomas’ in the White House Press Pool. Below is her pov on some of the Presidents she has covered.

On Lyndon B. Johnson: “Johnson was a man who certainly had to talk. He was very garrulous, in a sense, and he also very self-protective. He always would say, ‘Now, you know that’s off the record.’ At the same time, you also knew what he wanted you to write what you were seeing and hearing, but not attribute it to him. So we played the game.”

On Richard Nixon: “Once you lie, your credibility is shot. And, I really think if you lie too many times, then it’s all over. I believe the people have a right to know almost everything.”

On Gerald Ford: “Gerald Ford was gentle, very kind. His great aspiration was to be Speaker of the House. He never really aspired to be President, but lightening struck. He turned out to be a good president because he really restored confidence in the Oval Office and a sense of security in the country after the Watergate scandal.”

On Jimmy Carter: “Jimmy Carter is a very spiritual man. I think he almost missed his calling. He would have been a great minister. I think his greatest contribution to the country is that he made human rights a centerpiece of his foreign policy.”

On Ronald Reagan: “[His advisors] taught him to say, ‘This is not a press conference.’ And, they had him quite trained on that. And, one day, we asked him about what was happening, and he said to us, ‘I can’t answer that.’ We said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because they won’t let me.’ And, he pointed to Baker, Meese, and Deaver, standing behind, very grim. ‘They won’t let me.’ And I said, ‘But, you’re the president!’”

On George H.W. Bush: “I think at the tale end, both he and Mrs. Bush began to really think that we were the cause of all their troubles. So the press was not liked at all.”

On Bill Clinton: “President Clinton didn’t understand that he was being denied his legitimacy as President by the ultra-right in this country, who never gave him one second, one moment where he could prevail. They were after him constantly, investigating him constantly .. I don’t understand how he possibly could’ve taken what he took. He was asked so many personal questions that I’ve never – no president has ever been subjected to that kind of tyranny.”

On George W. Bush: “When George Bush first became president, I think I attended two or three news conferences with him, and then I did get another question in, and there’s a blackout now, I believe, until the end of his term.“

Awesome woman, fantastic journalist. Some great insights are what I am looking forward to and I KNOW she won’t disappoint me.