HuffPo's Stein: 'Anti-War Voices Fret' Loss of Helen Thomas in Briefing Room

Well that didn't take long. The folks at the left-wing MoveOn.org are practically in mourning over Helen Thomas's "retirement."

Just a few hours after news broke that Hearst columnist Helen Thomas is calling it quits after a viral video of her anti-Semitic comments led to widespead condemnation of the White House press corps dean.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has the story:

The abrupt retirement of Helen Thomas from her perch as the ranking member of the White House press corps was essentially accepted as a fait accompli by supporters and detractors alike after her controversial remarks urging Jews to leave Israel surfaced.

Indeed, if there was any defense made of Thomas's comments, it wasn't done persuasively or at an influential level. But that didn't stop the progressive community -- many hearing about her retirement while at the Campaign for America's Future conference in D.C. -- from collectively fretting on Monday about what the loss of her voice bodes for the day-to-day interaction between the White House and the Fourth Estate.

Her absence will be felt "significantly," said Ilyse Hogue, Communications Director of Moveon.org. "The burden will fall on the rest of the press corps to make sure the administration feels the need to be transparent about its plans to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Of course, Stein found a way to work in a swipe at the Bush administration for "marginalizing" Thomas:

It was her intense skepticism of the dual wars (and her subsequent marginalization by the Bush administration) that helped make her an iconic figure in the progressive, anti-war community, which felt reporters had abdicated their responsibilities in the early 2000s. 

But Thomas's questions, both during the Bush and Obama administrations, were often little more than anti-war screeds, not legitimate efforts at soliciting information to report to the public. It could be understandably tiresome for any press secretary to deal with that on a daily basis, much less the journalists in the briefing room, which Stein seemed to concede:

So predictable were the questions she asked that fellow reporters would practically ad-lib Robert Gibbs's answers. Grumbling had started well before her firing that the purpose of sitting her in the front row (a prime piece of real estate in the media world) no longer seemed so evident.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters