WaPo's Kurtz: In 2002, Helen Thomas Exclaimed 'Thank God for Hezbollah'

As other media outlets have given Helen Thomas the kid glove treatment in light of her "trailblazing" career, media consumers may be forgiven for assuming that Helen Thomas's anti-Israel, arguably anti-Semitic comments were an aberration in an otherwise unblemished career of assertive but fair journalism.

To his credit, Washington Post's media reporter Howard Kurtz made note of other incidents, such as the time Thomas blamed Israel for inspiring "99 percent" of terrorism and the time in 2002 when she exclaimed "Thank God for Hezbollah," the Iran-backed terror group that murdered 241 U.S. servicement in 1983 and has plagued Israel for decades.

As the excerpt below shows, it's not just conservatives who have had complaints about Thomas (emphases mine):

"She asked questions no hard-news reporter would ask, that carried an agenda and reflected her point of view, and there were some reporters who felt that was inappropriate," said CBS correspondent Mark Knoller. "As a columnist she felt totally unbound from any of the normal policies of objectivity that every other reporter in the room felt compelled to abide by, and sometimes her questions were embarrassing to other reporters."

But few called her out for such conduct -- until Nesenoff, who heads a Long Island synagogue, posted the video on his site RabbiLIVE.com. Commentators on the right and left quickly eviscerated Thomas.

"She's always said crazy stuff," said National Review Online columnist Jonah Goldberg. "One reason she gets a pass is that there's an entrenched system of deference to seniority in the White House press corps. . . . This newfound horror and dismay that people are expressing about Helen Thomas are beyond a day late and a dollar short."

Jeffrey Goldberg, an Atlantic reporter who specializes in the Middle East, said: "Helen Thomas offered the official Hamas position, as far as I can tell. There's a level of insensitivity that's almost comical in what she said, to tell Jews to go back to Germany, where things worked out so well for them."

[...]

In 2002, Thomas asked Fleischer: "Does the president think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?"

Four years later, Thomas told Fleischer's successor, Tony Snow, that the United States "could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon" by Israel, but instead had "gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine." Snow tartly thanked her for "the Hezbollah view."

Mark Rabin, a former freelance cameraman for CNN, said that in a 2002 conversation at the White House, Thomas said "thank God for Hezbollah" for driving Israel out of Lebanon, adding that "Israel is the cause for 99 percent of all this terrorism."

The Daily Caller Web site noted that during a 2004 speech to the Al-Hewar Center, a Washington-based Arab organization, Thomas likened Palestinian protesters resisting the "tyrannical occupation" by Israel to "those who resisted the Nazi occupation."

A handful of journalists questioned her role over the years. In a 2006 New Republic piece, Jonathan Chait accused Thomas of "unhinged rants," noting that she had asked such questions as: "Why are we killing people in Iraq? Men, women, and children are being killed there. . . . It's outrageous."

"Why are we killing people in Iraq?" may be a question that warms the hearts of Code Pinkers, but it's hardly the caliber of question one would expect from a seasoned journalistic veteran. 

Remember, we're talking about a woman with a half-century of experience in Washington journalism, certainly someone who knows quite a bit about how policy is made and how Washington works, yet her questions were incredibly simplistic, even Manichean in their outlook on all manner of policy matters. 

It's amazing how much adulation the media are giving a woman who practically phoned it in the last nine years of her career.

Kudos to Howard Kurtz for highlighting critical voices, and not just conservative ones.

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