Say what you like about Helen Thomas but don't lose sight of what she gave women across the country and Americans as a whole, as far as representing us during every Presidential press conference. She never stopped asking the tough questions. Never.
It was 1970, a time when men worked and the majority of women stayed at home. But you would have never known it following Helen Thomas. In fact, I'm pretty sure she didn't get that memo or wire, in those days. Following the death of my father, then Dean of the White House Press Corps, Merriman Smith, Helen Thomas stepped in as Dean of the White House Press Corps representing U.P.I. (United Press International).
Until recently and for more than 40 years, Helen never missed a Presidential beat.
With the recent incident that happened just before this summer, Helen took a break from public life until just two weeks ago when I visited Washington, D.C. to have dinner with Helen and some other very generous bidders who won Dinner With Helen Thomas with all proceeds going to a very worth charity.
As time permitted during our time that evening, we took a few minutes here and there to talk about life, how she was doing and just what she planned to do next. A woman with much to say, and a vast amount of information only Helen could share, Helen gave all at the dinner table more reason than ever to encourage her to share some of the most amazing stories that no one has ever been told about the numerous presidential administrations she served under as Dean of the White House Press Corps.
We spent a fair amount of time listening to her recount the days she spent traveling with then President Richard Nixon to China. Oh the stories she shared. None of us had any idea of what actually took place during that trip - at least not from the eyes of the woman walking alongside the President of the United States.
To understand Helen Thomas you must be willing to accept the following as 100% true:
Helen Thomas is pro humanity and anti-war, anti-killing or anything that can put people in harm's way. She does not, nor will she ever accept war as an answer to anything but a waste of human life.
Now, take into account the comments that caused Helen Thomas, who some consider the first lady of journalism, to end her career.
Helen Thomas: The Truth Backed By History
On May 27, 2010 as Helen made her way into the White House, someone representing RhabbiLIVE.com asked Helen if she had any comments about Israel. Her comments were as follows:
Helen Thomas: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.
Remember these people are occupied and it's their land..not German. It's not Poland."
And why would Helen suggest Israelis get out of Palestine? To answer this, you have to know your history.
What History Tells Us:
How long has Palestine been a country?
The British wrestled Palestine away from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and occupied Palestine up until 1947. In 1947, the UN partitioned the land into Arab and Jewish states. The Arabs did not accept the partition and war broke out. The Jews won a decisive victory, expanded their state and created several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees.
Interviewer comment: "So where should they go? What should they do?"
Helen Thomas: "Go home."
Interviewer: "And where is their home?"
Helen Thomas: "Poland and Germany and America and everywhere else."
In the video clip that hit the Internet, the next line in the video shows the following text:
"Six million Jews were killed at home...in Germany and Poland. Does Helen know that Jews have lived in Israel way before the Holocaust?"
The interviewer and the editor of this clip connected Helen's comment that Israelis should go home to Poland and Germany to the fact that six million Jews were killed in those same countries during the Holocaust. This was to suggest that Helen was anti-Semitic, wanting Israelis to go back to the same places that their ancestors faced unspeakable atrocities.
What History Tells Us:
How many Palestinian refugees still exist?
Today the number of Palestinian total approximately 4.7 million persons, of which 3.4 million are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The largest concentration of Palestine refugees is in Jordan, representing more than 40% of those refugees registered with UNRWA, and the refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, represent 38% of UNRWA’s registration, Lebanon and Syria each host about 10% of the registered refugees and the remainder live in neighboring countries, including Egypt, while others have migrated to Europe, the United States, Canada and South America.
Helen, knowing how many Palestinians are still refugees suggested that Israelis consider going back to their homes today in 2010, when no such atrocities exist and they can live in peace and enjoy their own quality of life. Never did Helen suggest going back in time but back home. Her passion, her stance and what she most values is the sanctity of human life of all human life, no matter race, ethnicity, or anything else. To Helen, every life is worth protecting and cherishing.
And for these comments taken out of context and misunderstood, The Society of Professional Journalists is considering whether or not to retain Helen Thomas' name for its Lifetime Achievement Award.