Time's Joe Klein: Push Helen to the Back of the Briefing Room

Time's Joe Klein, no fan of the present Israeli government he, has weighed in on Helen Thomas's now infamous "get the hell out of Palestine" comments.

Writing for his magazine's Swampland blog yesterday, Klein denounced the Hearst columnist's comments as "odious," but stopped short of demanding her ouster from the White House press briefing room. Instead, Klein urged in his June 6 post that Thomas should forego her front row seat and get pushed towards the back of the room:

[I]t's not unprecedented for journalists with odious views to have access to the press room. What is unprecedented is for such a journalist to have a front-row center seat. Thomas should no longer have that privilege. The front row should be occupied by working reporters, not columnists. The WHCA should sanction Thomas by sending her back to the cheap seats. This would accurately reflect her current status as a journalist while preserving her First Amendment right to be as obnoxious as she wants.

Of course Thomas has a First Amendment right to be obnoxious, but that doesn't mean she has a constitutional right to a slot in the press briefing room. Perhaps Klein thinks his is a reasonable middle ground for the WHCA to stake out, but there were plenty of reasons to boot Thomas from the front row long before her anti-Semitic ranting made for viral video.
 
Anyone who's seen press briefings in the Bush or Obama administrations has seen Thomas repeatedly ask heavily loaded questions that sounded like they were scripted from fringe left-wing organizations like Code Pink or Free Gaza activists.
 
By contrast, other left-wing journalists such as David Corn of Mother Jones have posed questions that, while perhaps colored by ideology, were actually legitimate points of inquiry aimed at soliciting information from the White House.
 
If the purpose of the White House briefing room is to assist journalists covering the White House in covering their beat and reporting objective information to the news-consuming public, why has the WHCA long tolerated in Helen Thomas a far-left columnist who uses her front-row perch to grind a political ax rather than work to gather information?
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters