Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Follow-up On Dear helen thomas

Darling helen (See her picture to the right), as so many others have offered, my shotgun is at your disposal 24/7. Please feel free to remove yourself from this life. http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/Comment/AlbertEisele/080305.html By: Albert Eiseele My affair with Helen Legendary White House reporter Helen Thomas is mad at me, big time, as Vice President Cheney once said in a different context about a different reporter. My sin? I made the mistake of assuming that, when I called her last week to ask about her recent Hearst Newspapers column on Cheney, I wasn’t calling to pass the time of day but actually intended to write a story about it. Calling him “the most powerful vice president in recent times, perhaps in U.S. history,” she said that Cheney “certainly could campaign on the theme that he has had experience in running the White House." Figuring that, having covered every president since John F. Kennedy, she knew I was going to quote her, since I assume people are on the record unless they state otherwise, which she didn’t, I asked her if she was promoting a Cheney candidacy in 2008. I then wrote what I thought was an innocuous item in our “Under the Dome” column Thursday in which I quoted her response: “The day I say Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I’ll kill myself. All we need is one more liar.” She says I shouldn’t have quoted her “because we all say stuff we don’t want printed.” Little did I know, being a creature of the typewriter/telegraph era of journalism, that cybergossip Matt Drudge would pounce on the item and transmit it to the farthest regions of the Internet universe, along with an unflattering photograph of Ms. Thomas. That was all Drudge acolytes needed to unleash a flood of e-mails condemning her — and me, as her unwitting accomplice. The general tone of the e-mails, and a number of phone calls as well, can be captured in one from Rob Clark of Sarasota, Fla., who wrote, “Please tell Helen Thomas that she can borrow one of my guns if she wants to shoot herself.” Of course, there were also such gems as this one from an anonymous foul-mouthed Drudgoid who described me with a scatalogical term combining an adjective for a common sexual practice with a noun for a bodily orifice. “No wonder the fourth estate is in such sorry state, you f- - - - - - sleezeball,” he wrote. I’d have taken his comment seriously if he’d had the guts to sign his name, but it’s easy to be a coward on the Internet. I just hope this slack-jawed degenerate reads this so he learns how to spell “sleazeball,” which he can easily see in the mirror. Anyway, having unintentionally caused Ms. Thomas considerable pain, I wish to rise to her defense. Thomas is a great journalist, the first lady of the White House press corps, who has blazed a trail for women journalists and has been doing for decades what White House reporters are supposed to do but too often don’t, which is to ask tough questions of presidents. Naturally, that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, who apparently would prefer to see their politicians treated like gods and who have a visceral hatred of the press. But the larger lesson here, and one that I’m surprised Ms. Thomas, who has been a Washington reporter since 1943 and retired as UPI’s White House correspondent in 2000, failed to understand, is that “off the record” is a virtually meaningless term, which is why this column bears the name it does. It’s bad enough that public officials hide behind it to discredit their critics, as the CIA leak imbroglio demonstrates, but even worse when reporters do it.


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