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Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Israel’s political occupation of the White House press corps
By Yvonne Ridley
Hold the front page!
The docile White House press corps has got steamed up about something and finally taken a scalp as a result.
It seems the Capitol Hill cocktail set who usually sit and preen themselves like pampered Pomeranians while asking pre-screened, pre-approved, Obama-friendly questions have forced a resignation.
So what provoked them and who were they gunning for? Was it one of Obama’s aids caught lying -- maybe some political sleaze or even another Watergate in the making? Could they have been making a final stand for journalistic integrity and freedom over the administration’s plans to prosecute and imprison investigative reporters who refuse to reveal their sources?
Well sorry to disappoint -- it was none of the above.
It seems the most famous gaggle of journalists in the world finally got steamed up about a comment made by one of their own… against Israel.
And their target just happens to be an 89-year-old columnist who has nailed more U.S. presidents with her hammer-blow questions than any other member of the White House press corps.
The formidable grand dame of the White House press corps has now been forced to quit her much coveted front row seat -- from where she made no less than 10 U.S. presidents sweat with her probing questions.
Helen Thomas resigned just before the White House Correspondents Association announced it was considering stripping her of her prime position.
No doubt some of these are the same gutless scribes who gave President George W. Bush such an easy ride over Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, waterboarding, etc.
Now had Helen Thomas blasted: “Palestinians should get the hell out of Israel,” she would have been feted.
Instead, what the redoubtable Ms. Thomas, a lifelong critic of Zionism, said was that Israeli Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Germany and Poland “or wherever they came from.”
Ms. Thomas, a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, apologized almost immediately for the off-the-cuff comments she made to a rabbi who was conducting a video interview with her outside the White House during a recent celebration of Jewish heritage.
Now the decision to retire her, with immediate effect, was announced by Hearst Newspapers, which syndicates her column. The announcement was made just weeks ahead of her 90th birthday on August 4.
The board of the correspondents association, which recently gathered to consider how to respond to her controversial remarks, issued this very wordy statement: “Helen Thomas’ comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them. Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trail blazer on the White House beat. While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter.
“We want to emphasize that the role of the WHCA is to represent the White House press corps in its dealings with the White House on coverage-related issues. We do not police the speech of our members or colleagues. We are not involved at all in issuing White House credentials, that is the purview of the White House itself. But the incident does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the WH briefing room. That is an issue under the jurisdiction of this board. We are actively seeking input from our association members on this important matter, and we have scheduled a special meeting of the WHCA board on Thursday to decide on the seating issue.”
What a gutless, feckless collective of cabestros.
Just a few days ago, no less than 60 journalists on board the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla were shot at, abused, beaten up, and robbed by the military representing the Zionist regime of Israel.
Was there one word of anger, one word of recrimination, or a statement released about the treatment of fellow journalists who were on board a series of ships which were attacked in international waters?
Israeli soldiers destroyed and stole their cell phones, confiscating video footage and photographic equipment. The later unauthorized use of journalists’ footage shows the contempt that the Israeli authorities have for journalism. By showing old photographs and edited footage there was a clear violation of journalistic ethics.
Such blatant attempts at control of news coverage are nothing new. The same strategy was followed during Israel’s last invasion of Gaza.
But what do these Washington scribes know?
However, what they have proved by their swift action against Helen Thomas is that while Israel conducts a military occupation in Palestine, it is conducting a political occupation of the White House press corps.
Yvonne Ridley is a founder member of Women In Journalism and has been a member of the National Union of Journalists for 34 years. She presents two political shows, The Agenda and Rattansi & Ridley, for Press TV.