Helen Thomas kept US Presidents on their toes: Obama
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Last Updated: Sunday, July 21, 2013, 14:55
  
Washington: US President Barack Obama has openly acknowledged what some of his predecessors have felt about Helen Thomas, the feisty front-row White House journalist, who kept them on their toes.

Helen, 92, died here yesterday.

She covered 10 presidents over nearly half a century, and became a legend in the industry.

She was a regular fixture at White House news conferences -- sitting front and centre late in her career -- where she frequently exasperated government spokesmen with her pointed questions. In a condolence message, Obama said he was saddened to learn of the death of Helen.

"Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism.

"She covered every White House since President Kennedy's, and during that time she never failed to keep presidents - myself included - on their toes," the US President acknowledged.

"What made Helen the 'Dean of the White House Press Corps' was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account," he said. Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, recalled Thomas' "tough- minded dedication."

"Helen was a pioneering journalist who, while adding more than her share of cracks to the glass ceiling, never failed to bring intensity and tenacity to her White House beat," the CNN quoted the Clintons as saying in a statement.

Helen began covering the White House for United Press International when John F. Kennedy became president in 1961 and was a fixture there until her retirement in 2010.

In January 2009, as President George Bush was preparing to leave office, she attacked him editorially.

Among her criticisms: that before the 9/11 terror attacks, Bush administration officials ignored "significant early warnings of an imminent strike against the US".

In a commentary, she slammed Bush for what she considered his failings, including leading the country "into a senseless war against Iraq, a calamity still under way as he leaves office almost six years after the invasion."

She considered him "the worst president ever." Her career, however, came to an end under a cloud of controversy. Helen, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, was blasted for comments she made regarding Jewish people.

In 2010, a YouTube video surfaced showing her saying that Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jewish people should go home to "Poland, Germany ... And America and everywhere else." Helen apologised for her remarks and she announced her retirement one week later.

Meanwhile, Helen's family said she will be buried in Detroit, and a memorial service is planned in Washington in October, the CNN reported. PTI After Af-Pak, US to deploy drones to fresh frontiers Five Chinese men sentenced to death for fishing boat killings Beijing: A Chinese court has sentenced five men to death for killing 16 fellow crew members on an oceangoing fishing boat.

The Intermediate People's Court of Weihai City in eastern Shandong Province ruled that 11 men, led by Liu Guiduo, were guilty of acts of intentional homicide that left 16 dead and six others missing.

Liu and other four principal culprits received death penalties, and six accessories were given sentences that included death sentence with reprieve, life imprisonment and fixed-term imprisonment, state-run Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

The convicts were not content with their salaries on the fishing boat and planned to hijack the vessel and return home when it was sailing near Chile in June 2011, a statement from the court said.

PTI


First Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013, 14:55


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