Long-time White House correspondent turned loose-cannon Helen Thomas hasn't been sold on Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama like many of her colleagues in the mainstream media.
Thomas, now a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, told a Bethesda, Md. audience the race between Obama and Clinton has gotten mean-spirited. She attacked the role of bloggers in the news cycle, but that wasn't before she had some very harsh criticisms of Obama's rise in popularity.
"We're in the midst of a presidential campaign which is really getting rotten - down and dirty between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama," Thomas said. "The Democratic candidates - Obama has the edge, he's a rock star. He's galvanized the youth vote of this country, but I have yet to see what he has done to take the highest office in the land. He is no Martin Luther King and his campaign, like all others, is backed by people with deep pockets."
Thomas, a 47-year veteran of the White House Press Corps, was promoting her book, "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed The Public," on April 19 at the Bethesda Literary Festival.
Thomas was less unforgiving about Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton. She said that although she has made some mistakes in her campaign and still voted to authorize the Iraq war, she wasn't getting the same free pass Obama had gotten from the media.
"Hell yes, he sure has," Thomas said, after being asked if Obama had been given a free ride by the media. "Hillary has been pilloried. And, I'm not saying she's faultless - she's made many, many more mistakes [than] Obama did. I think there is a question if - if you're anti-women, that's okay generally. If you're anti-black, you're a racist. I think more people, a lot of people are afraid of being called racists by opposing Obama. And I'm not saying he hasn't been a very eloquent orator. He's won a lot of people over."
Not diverting too far from her opinion on bloggers earlier this year, where she blamed them for the Iraq war at an event at the National Press Club in January, Thomas told the audience that the power of the blogs scares her.
"Everybody with a laptop thinks they're a journalist," Thomas said. "And, real journalists know that we have standards, we have ethics. We understand we can ruin lives and reputations forever. There's no recourse and so forth. So I'm really afraid of the blogs. They can say anything and throw anything into the wind and it will be picked up. I'm glad we have communication and I'm glad there's more information out there. With no constraints of people putting anything out there - and people will leap in - I think it's pretty dangerous."