Helen Thomas Whacks Obama for Being Heartless as Israelis Starve the Children of Gaza

There is one famous journalist who’s unafraid to denounce Barack Obama’s agenda. Legendary left-wing journalist Helen Thomas appeared on Tuesday’s Democracy Now on radical Pacifica Radio, and denounced Obama’s acceptance of pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy: "I think that Obama, during the campaign, made many promises, as every president, potential president does to Israel, that they seem somehow bounded by their promises, promises to uphold all Israeli goals. I don't see how the U.S. can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death."

Thomas also denounced the White House press corps for bowing to Bush yesterday at his final press conference, offering a "platform of self-defense and self-delusion," and then compared the Israelis to the Nazis: "I remember the rabbi who spoke at the Martin Luther King march on Washington. [Rabbi Abraham] Heschel had a cameo appearance, and he said, ‘The greatest sin of all in the Nazi era was silence.’ When you remain silent to the suffering and the incredible aggression against a people, then you are culpable."

Host Amy Goodman honored Thomas as a legend, and set her up to denounce Bush and Israel:

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what you wrote in this last column, which is called "History Cannot Save Him."

HELEN THOMAS: Well, I wrote that President Bush is passing on to President-elect Obama two wars and an economic debacle. I call it a depression. And he is arming Israel against the Palestinians in every way in Gaza.

GOODMAN: Do you expect to see a change of policy, Helen Thomas?

THOMAS: I think it's an unconscionable legacy.

GOODMAN: Do you expect to see a change of policy, for example, on Israel and the Occupied Territories?

THOMAS: No, I don't.

GOODMAN: Why not?

THOMAS: Because I think that Obama, during the campaign, made many promises, as every president, potential president does to Israel, that they seem somehow bounded by their promises, promises to uphold all Israeli goals. I don't see how the US can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death.

They control the checkpoints. They control the arrivals and departures, supplies and people. And the Americans-President Bush has remained silent to that suffering. He has blocked by a veto at the UN any stoppage of the warfare, and he continues to supply Israel.

GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, what did you think of President Bush's last news conference?

THOMAS: I thought it was nostalgic. I understood the reporters' soft questions. Obviously, they're all writing about his legacy, wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt as to what his position was. And I think they gave him a platform of self-defense and self-delusion. The whole idea that it was a disappointment not to have weapons of mass destruction? A disappointment? "Significant disappointment," he said.

GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, what would you have asked President Bush if you got a chance yesterday? Did you expect that he would call on you?

THOMAS: No, but I wish that he had, because I would have -- I mean, I would have asked a news question. I would not have gone into the nostalgia, though I'm not criticizing it, because I do think the reporters had to wrap up to find out what he really thought about himself and his legacy. But I would have asked why do you continue to support the killing in Gaza? And that's what we're doing.

I mean, you can't remain neutral. I remember the rabbi who spoke at the Martin Luther King march on Washington. [Rabbi Abraham] Heschel had a cameo appearance, and he said, "The greatest sin of all in the Nazi era was silence." When you remain silent to the suffering and the incredible aggression against a people, then you are culpable.

Goodman then replayed a clip from an interview that turnout Bush spokesman Scott McClellan gave to Pacifica in June, where McClellan traveled so far to the left that he suggested the White House briefing room should be stuffed with Helen Thomas clones:

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think we need more Helen Thomases in the press corps, both the national press corps, even in the White House press corps, as well. She is someone who is not afraid to ask the tough questions and hold people accountable for the decisions that are made. So I think that's important to state right up front.

For her part, Thomas was non-plussed by the praise:

GOODMAN: That was Scott McClellan after he stepped down as press secretary. Helen Thomas, are you surprised by his praise?

THOMAS: Somewhat, having been called Hezbollah [by Tony Snow] and everything else probably. Well, I mean, I suppose it's the position that you're trying -- if you -- how can you speak for the President of the United States? I mean, you cannot go off the curve. And so, everything is forgivable. And you always have to understand what position a spokesperson is in. I think it's the toughest job in the White House being a spokesperson for the President and for American policy, which is sometimes very unacceptable.

GOODMAN: What is your assessment of the White House press corps? Has it changed over the decades? And what did you think of the White House press corps that covered-all of the press covering President Bush?

THOMAS: I think they lost their guts after 9/11. No one wanted to ask penetrating questions for fear of being called un-American, unpatriotic. And I think their publishers, wherever they are, maybe Wall Street and so forth, were saying, "Lay off. You know, we're all Americans, and we have to stick together no matter what." So I don't think reporters should – I mean, obviously, the ideal is to seek the truth, no matter where the chips fall.

This is an odd statement from Thomas, who loved Bill Clinton enough to skip over asking the president about Juanita Broaddrick’s rape charge on the day it surfaced in 1999. Instead, she asked Clinton about how he was victimized by his impeachers, about what was learned "from your 13-month ordeal?"

Here’s one more amusing Pacifica passage, in which Thomas insists that she stands simply for justice, and never veers off to extremes:

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, you were born in Kentucky, your parents, Lebanese Christians. Your Arab American background, do you think that informs-or how does it inform your reporting?

HELEN THOMAS: Of course. I have a background and an understanding of what's happened in the Middle East that a lot of people don't have, because there's been no interest. But why shouldn't I project some of my feelings and so forth? I mean, I have that right, as an opinion column. But also, I hope I seek justice. And I don't think that I go off the highway. 

Thomas can even accuse Barack Obama of being heartless to the starving children of Gaza, but she’s not off on some extreme?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis