NBC's Curry 'Inspired' by Longtime Lib Helen Thomas

<div style="float: right"><object width="240" height="194"><param name="movie" value="http://www.eyeblast.tv/public/eyeblast.swf?v=GdSUuzVrnz&amp;c1=0x39763A&... name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.eyeblast.tv/public/eyeblast.swf?v=GdSUuzVrnz&amp;c1=0x39763A&... allowfullscreen="true" width="240" height="194"></embed></object></div>NBC's Ann Curry, on Tuesday's &quot;Today&quot; show, called longtime liberal White House correspondent Helen Thomas her &quot;inspiration.&quot; As part of an ongoing series &quot;Today's Mentors and Inspirations,&quot; Curry visited the former UPI reporter and current Hearst columnist in Washington and offered a bouquet of a profile to her hero as, over video of Thomas challenging former presidents, Curry gushed: <blockquote><p>CURRY: Affectionately called the First Lady of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas has made 10 presidents sweat- </p><p>HELEN THOMAS: Charged with perjury-</p><p>CURRY: -stammer- </p><p>GEORGE W. BUSH: That's where, that's where-</p><p>CURRY: -and answer to the people. She first walked through those White House gates half a century ago. </p></blockquote><p>While the tenor of the interview was mostly cheery, interspersed with clips of Thomas questioning presidents throughout her many years as part of the White House press corps, the segment took, literally, a darker tone when the Iraq war came up. Over video that suddenly turned black and white with Bush, in slo-mo, walking to the podium, Curry relayed Thomas' one chastisement to her fellow reporters [MP3 <a href="http://media.eyeblast.org/newsbusters/static/2009/10/2009-10-06-NBC-TDY-... target="_blank">audio highlights here</a>]: <!--break--></p><blockquote><p><img src="http://media.eyeblast.org/newsbusters/static/2009/10/2009-10-06-NBC-Curr... vspace="3" width="240" align="right" border="0" height="179" hspace="3" />CURRY: She's not just tough on presidents. Thomas is also critical of those who fill the seats beside her and says her fellow reporters caved during the Iraq war, though she understands why. After she cornered President Bush in this very room, he rarely called on her again. </p><p>BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Let, excuse me. Excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. Helen. </p><p>THOMAS: When you go into journalism, you don't try to win a popularity contest. Oftentimes you're going to make people very unhappy. </p></blockquote><p>The following teasers and full segment were aired on the October 6, &quot;Today&quot; show: </p><blockquote><p>ANN CURRY: Also coming up we'll be talking about mentors. You know you introduced, it was such a nice story-</p><p>MEREDITH VIEIRA: Thank you.</p><p>CURRY: -when you presented your mentor Howard Stringer yesterday. In my case I'll be talking about a woman who inspired me. I mean she didn't so much mentor me, as much as be, she was a shining example of a woman in a very, at a time with very few women in the ranks of reporters. And she's always asked tough questions and so I've tried to emulate her. </p><p>VIEIRA: She's still very inspirational.</p><p>CURRY: Oh my Lord! So we'll be hearing from her in a little bit. </p><p>...</p><p>MEREDITH VIEIRA: And up next Ann introduces us to the woman who's inspired her throughout her career, right after this.</p><p>...</p><p>ANN CURRY: Now to our special series, &quot;Today's Mentors and Inspirations,&quot; and this morning my inspiration. 89-year-old Helen Thomas spent 57 years as a reporter for United Press International before becoming a columnist with Hearst newspapers, and all along the way, she has had a front-row seat to history. </p><p>[On screen headline: &quot;Helen of D.C., Today's Mentors &amp; Inspirations&quot;]</p><p>RICHARD NIXON: Miss Thomas has the first question tonight.</p><p>HELEN THOMAS MONTAGE: Consider dealing directly with Viet Cong?...Don't you think the American people should know?...Why did you undertake a mission that endangered so many lives?...In the light of the...deception of Congress...What was your relationship?...Why do you refuse to respect the law between church and state?</p><p>MARLIN FITZWATER FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: She's the one who's got the courage, the guts to stand up in public and say, &quot;This is wrong.&quot;</p><p>ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let's have this discussion at the conclusion of the town hall meeting, how about that? </p><p>THOMAS: No, no, no. We're having it now-</p><p>GIBBS: Why do we have to have it now? </p><p>THOMAS: It's a pattern. </p><p>GIBBS: You just know you better be ready for a tough question. If you don't have a thorough answer, she'll keep going. </p><p>NIXON: Well Miss Thomas-</p><p>GERALD FORD: Well Miss Thomas-</p><p>BARACK OBAMA: Alright, Helen? </p><p>CURRY: You seem to be fearless. </p><p>THOMAS: I talk big. </p><p>CURRY: No, you get up there, you say it. And you've done it for decades. What propels you to be so direct, so engaging? </p><p>THOMAS: I don't know if there's any other way to do it. </p><p>CURRY: But you want them to know their place. </p><p>THOMAS And I know my place, too, which is to ask the questions that, that may drive them out of their minds. </p><p>CURRY: Affectionately called the First Lady of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas has made 10 presidents sweat- </p><p>THOMAS: Charged with perjury-</p><p>CURRY: -stammer- </p><p>GEORGE W. BUSH: That's where, that's where-</p><p>CURRY: -and answer to the people. She first walked through those White House gates half a century ago. </p><p>THOMAS: I thought, well, this is nice. I'll stay here. I was the man who came to dinner, who didn't leave. But I realized I was covering history every day. </p><p>CURRY: And making a bit of her own history along the way, as one of the only female White House reporters, Thomas stormed Washington's all boys clubs. Because of you, there are women- </p><p>THOMAS: Oh no. </p><p>CURRY: -who have the space-</p><p>THOMAS: There were many women fighting, so many great women journalists. I get credit because I think I'm still alive. I'm not quite sure. I'll check my pulse. I read the obituary pages every day to see if I'm not on them. </p><p>CURRY: Oh, come on!</p><p>THOMAS: No, but I'm carrying an image, but the others did it. </p><p>CURRY: But you were a part of that as well. </p><p>THOMAS: Well, I certainly want to be a part of the fight. </p><p>CURRY: During the Kennedy administration, Helen Thomas was the first woman honored with the task of officially closing televised press conferences.</p><p>THOMAS: I saw that Kennedy was really in a bind trying to answer a question, and he went on and on trying to find the answer. So then I got up and I said-</p><p>THOMAS TO JOHN F. KENNEDY: Mr. President, thank you. </p><p>THOMAS: He said, &quot;Thank you.&quot; </p><p>KENNEDY: Thank you Helen.</p><p>THOMAS: And I had taken him off the hook. </p><p>RONALD REAGAN: Helen's in charge. </p><p>CURRY: Rarely such a pushover, she's known as &quot;The lady presidents love to hate.&quot; If you had asked things maybe a little more diplomatically, you might have gotten more of an answer? </p><p>THOMAS: Well I've been told that.</p><p>CURRY: What do you think? </p><p>THOMAS: My critics say so, yes. I think the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and that's the way I like to ask the question. </p><p>CURRY: Yet, they couldn't help but love her, too. You have gotten a birthday cake delivered to you by President Obama and by President Clinton. </p><p>THOMAS: Good. </p><p>CURRY: Good? </p><p>THOMAS: Yeah, good cakes. </p><p>CURRY: You've had encounters with all the presidents in social events. You know, it's a chummy world. </p><p>THOMAS: If you're covering them on a day-by-day, 24/7 and plus, they get used to you, even if they don't like you. </p><p>CURRY: But when you look back at all those images-</p><p>THOMAS: I can't believe myself. </p><p>CURRY: You can't believe yourself? </p><p>THOMAS: No. I mean, I've had to act very nonchalant, and then I see the pictures and my mouth is dropping and my eyes are wide, and oh, it's the President of the United States!</p><p>REAGAN: Now, Helen, I know that Nancy, upstairs would die, she's watching on television, if I didn't call on you in that pretty red dress. </p><p>CURRY: For many presidents, Helen Thomas has symbolized the voice of the people. </p><p>FITZWATER: President Bush 41, for example, used to ask me about every two weeks, &quot;How's Helen coming along? I said, what do you mean? &quot;Well, is the pressure building for a press conference? Is she yelling? Is she upset about anything?&quot; Because he knew she represented a point of view in the American people that he wanted to deal with. </p><p>CURRY WITH THOMAS OVERLOOKING VIEW OF THE WHITE HOUSE: What do you think when you, when you look at that? </p><p>THOMAS: What do I think? I think every president could have done better. Talk about missed opportunities. </p><p>CURRY: Do you ever get tired of looking at the White House? </p><p>THOMAS: No. I really don't. I do love the White House, all it represents. I think we have the power, I think we have the integrity and the ideals of real good government. </p><p>CURRY: How many times do you think you've entered this room? </p><p>THOMAS: 50,000, at least. </p><p>CURRY: And do you ever get tired of it? </p><p>THOMAS: No. </p><p>CURRY: What's the feeling when you come in for a news conference? </p><p>THOMAS: God knows what's going to happen next?</p><p>CURRY OVER BLACK AND WHITE SLOW MOTION VIDEO OF BUSH APPROACHING PODIUM : She's not just tough on presidents. Thomas is also critical of those who fill the seats beside her and says her fellow reporters caved during the Iraq war, though she understands why. After she cornered President Bush in this very room, he rarely called on her again. </p><p>BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Let, excuse me. Excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. Helen. </p><p>THOMAS: When you go into journalism, you don't try to win a popularity contest. Oftentimes you're going to make people very unhappy. </p><p>CURRY: So, are you gonna make it to 11 presidents, you think? </p><p>THOMAS: Who knows? I'd like to. It's all in the hands of fate, but I'd like to die with my boots on. </p><p>CURRY: Or at least a pen in your hand and a pad of paper. </p><p>THOMAS: Running after a president. </p><p>CURRY: What do you want to have said about you, in your time covering the White House? </p><p>THOMAS: That she asked good questions, she asked why. </p><p>CURRY: That's it?</p><p>(THOMAS NODS HEAD)</p><p>CURRY: I think it'll be easy to say that. Well Marlon Fitzwater, who served as press secretary to presidents Reagan and George W-, H.W. Bush has this photograph on the back cover of his book. He call is it &quot;The Incredible Peeping Thomas.&quot; And by the way, Helen has written a new book along with Craig Crawford, which is called Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do. She's actually a prolific author. Anyway, I love her! </p><p>NATALIE MORALES: She's such a quick wit.</p><p>MEREDITH VIEIRA: Yeah. The way she describes her interviewing style, you know, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Just ask the questions straight, follow up with &quot;Why?&quot; </p><p>MORALES: Very direct, known for that. She's amazing.</p><p>CURRY: Thanks. Yeah...it wasn't, it's not as if I really knew her.</p><p>VIEIRA: Right.</p><p>CURRY: It was really that I had always watched her and been inspired by her. And I think that, that also is a great way to be. </p><p>VIEIRA: Yeah.</p><p>MORALES: And she's an inspiration for a lot of people, yeah.</p><p>CURRY: Go Helen!</p><p>VIEIRA: Yeah.</p></blockquote>

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.