Ed Driscoll

Helen Thomas' Inverse Groucho Moment

In the American Spectator, James Taranto looks back at Helen Thomas:

There are almost as many Helen Thomas awards in journalism as there are Robert C. Byrd federal buildings in West Virginia. The Society of Professional Journalists, which gives out the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement, describes Thomas as “a living icon of journalism for her dogged pursuit of the truth in a career that has spanned almost 60 years.” Thomas’s alma mater, Wayne State University in Detroit, honors Thomas’s “many years of exemplary service” with its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award. The Washington Post‘s Sally Quinn, a past recipient (with husband Ben Bradlee) of the Helen Thomas Award from the American News Women’s Club, writes that “Helen Thomas set the standard for excellence in journalism.”

Thomas, who turned 90 in August, became United Press International’s White House correspondent in 1961, arriving at the executive mansion with John F. Kennedy, whose campaign she had covered. In 2000 she left UPI to become a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, but she kept her prized frontrow seat in the White House pressroom. She enjoyed her new role as an opinion writer. “I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter,” she said in a 2002 speech. “Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?'”

By answering that question, she brought her career to an abrupt if long-overdue end.

And we all know what question that was; click here to watch the flip-cam clip where Helen dropped the mask, and whatever the appearance of her aged countenance, showed the world that what was inside was far uglier. Her utterances euthanized her seeming millennia-long career. Or as Matt Drudge brilliantly put it at the time:

Though not before she picks up one last award. In a life imitates The Onion moment, The Hill reports, “Helen Thomas receiving lifetime achievement award from CAIR.” While Groucho Marx famously said he’d never belong to any club that would have him as a member, CAIR is the one institution still very happy to be associated with Thomas — and presumably, the feeling is mutual — which speaks volumes about both parties.