Monday, October 18, 2010

Helen Thomas receives loud and warm applause at National Press Club award dinner

Former White House Press Corps senior member Helen Thomas, forced to resign from her Hearst News Service job after she was ambushed by rabbi David Nesenoff and his hidden camera outside of the White House last June, received the loudest round of applause, after that bestowed on this year's honoree, when she was recognized as a past recipient of the Fourth Estate Award for journalistic excellence. This year's winner was CBS newsman Bob Schieffer. When the names of other past recipients of the award who were present at the October 15 event were announced, Thomas's applause was greater than that for Washington Postcolumnists William Raspberry and David Broder.

Thomas told the video spying rabbi that Israelis now living in the West Bank should get out of Israel and return to their own nations. Thomas's comment drew the ire of the Israel Lobby and she was forced out of her long-held front row seat in the White House Press Briefing Room.

Thomas's White House coverage, which went unbroken since covering the Eisenhower administration, ceased under Obama during a time when the White House is in meltdown and top-level resignations are now a weekly event. And Thomas's dismissal was all the result of some arrogant rabbi with a hidden camera.

Quietly, many Washington journalists were livid over the treatment of Thomas by the White House and Israel's "Amen Choir" in Washington. However, they understand what Thomas told a radio station last week, "You cannot criticise Israel in this country and survive," adding, "it's the third rail."

Many Washington journalists prefer to stay on the subway platform and be nowhere near the third rail. In fact, most never even enter the subway station.

At the National Press Club Fourth Estate Award dinner honoring CBS's Bob Schieffer, former White House correspondent Helen Thomas received the loudest applause when past recipients were recognized in the audience. The Israel Lobby's cash and influence may influence news rooms and publishers, but it does not extend to cuffing the hands of journalists to prevent them applauding.