NBC's Mitchell Glosses Over Anti-Israel Rant From Liberal 'Legend' Helen Thomas

While eulogizing left-wing White House correspondent Helen Thomas on Saturday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Andrea Mitchell conveniently minimized the controversial end to Thomas's journalistic career: "No longer in daily journalism, she drew criticism for taking sides on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But by then she was already a legend." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

At no point did Mitchell play a sound bite of Thomas's offensive 2010 remarks that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to Poland and Germany.

Instead, Mitchell played a clip of Ann Curry's fawning 2009 interview with Thomas, including softballs like: "What do you want to have said about you in your time covering the White House?" Thomas replied: "That she asked good questions. That she asked why."

On that subject, fill-in anchor Harry Smith introduced Mitchell's report by proclaiming: "And Helen Thomas. She fearlessly asked ten presidents the tough questions, from the best seat in the White House." Mitchell similarly touted how Thomas was "not afraid of asking pointed questions."

In direct contradiction to those assertions, Mitchell's segment featured this anecdote about Thomas:

MITCHELL: Her big break came covering JFK. Closing press conferences with her trade mark, "Thank you, Mr. President."

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...

THOMAS [AT JFK PRESS CONFERENCE]: Mr. President, thank you.

THOMAS: ...he said, "Thank you."

JOHN KENNEDY: Thank you, Helen.

THOMAS: And I had taken him off the hook.

Helping President Kennedy get out of answering a tough question is the exact opposite of "fearlessly asking tough questions."

On Sunday's Today, Meet the Press moderator David Gregory also pushed Thomas's tough reputation: "She always taught us that, you know, it was so important to challenge, to ask tough questions of anyone who's in power and to not let up when you're in that press corps."

Wrapping up her Nightly News piece, Mitchell announced: "She always had the first question and the last word, leaving the rest of us to say simply, 'Thank you, Helen Thomas.'"


Here is a full transcript of the July 20 report:

6:30PM ET TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: And Helen Thomas. She fearlessly asked ten presidents the tough questions, from the best seat in the White House. A look back at the groundbreaking career of an intrepid White House correspondent.

6:40PM ET SEGMENT:

SMITH: Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent, died today. She was 92. Thomas was a pioneer when White House reporting was strictly a man's job. She paved the way for many other women to follow. Here's NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

RICHARD NIXON: Miss Thomas has the first question tonight.

HELEN THOMAS: Our policy of not bombing North Vietnam may be undergoing a subtle change. What is our policy?

ANDREA MITCHELL: For more than half a century she was the First Lady of the White House Press Corps, covering ten presidents, making history herself. Born of Lebanese immigrant parents, Thomas landed a job with United Press International. A pioneer woman in a man's profession, not afraid of asking pointed questions.

THOMAS: Who was to blame? Where did the buck stop?

MITCHELL: Her big break came covering JFK. Closing press conferences with her trade mark, "Thank you, Mr. President."

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...

THOMAS [AT JFK PRESS CONFERENCE]: Mr. President, thank you.

THOMAS: ...he said, "Thank you."

JOHN KENNEDY: Thank you, Helen.

THOMAS: And I had taken him off the hook.

MITCHELL: In 1974, she was named a bureau chief.

NIXON: This is the first time in history that a woman has been selected for that high post. We congratulate you.

MITCHELL: In 1971, Thomas married Douglas Cornell at the rival Associated Press.

RONALD 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.

MITCHELL: Thomas had strong opinions.

THOMAS: The Clintons had suffered a lot on the campaign trail, and they had a lot of chips on their shoulders about the press.

MITCHELL: In later years she became even more outspoken.

THOMAS: Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis.

GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just – is just flat wrong, Helen. In all due respect.

MITCHELL: No longer in daily journalism, she drew criticism for taking sides on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But by then she was already a legend.

ANN CURRY: What do you want to have said about you in your time covering the White House?

THOMAS: That she asked good questions. That she asked why.

MITCHELL: She always had the first question and the last word, leaving the rest of us to say simply, "Thank you, Helen Thomas."

In a statement tonight, the Obamas said that, "What made her the dean of the press corps was her fierce belief that democracy works best when she ask tough questions and hold leaders to account." Harry.

SMITH: And I know she was your dear friend. Andrea Mitchell, thank you so much tonight.

MITCHELL: You bet.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC