Washington Babylon — June 14, 2010, 10:35 am

Boot Helen Thomas: Howard Kurtz finally sees White House press as being too clubby

The Washington press corps is one big incestuous clusterfuck, but the instance in which Howard Kurtz criticized the beltway media was for its failure to lkick out Helen Thomas from her front row seat at White House press conferences sooner.

This is grand self-parody with Kurtz, the ultimate insider and gatekeeper for the conventional wisdom, saying, “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that she was a member in good standing of a tightly knit club that refused to question why a woman whose main job seemed to be to harangue press secretaries and presidents deserved a front-row seat in the briefing room.”

Harangue a press secretary? Never. Play squirt guns with Vice President Biden? By all means.

Kurtz reported that there was an “eye-rolling reaction in the White House pressroom when Helen Thomas would go off on one of her rants about the Middle East. She had been there for so long, was so admired by female journalists, was such a curmudgeonly character, that she was regarded as everyone’s eccentric aunt.” No action was taken against Thomas “even when the late White House spokesman Tony Snow accused her of offering ‘the Hezbollah view’,” Kurtz complains.

Kurtz, it seems, believes the press should police itself on the basis of complaints from the White House.

Also, take a look at the actual transcript of Thomas’s remarks that brought down Snow’s wrath:

THOMAS: The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardments of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.

SNOW: I don’t think so.

THOMAS: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine. And what’s happening — and that’s the perception of the United States.

SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you…

Outside of Washington, there’s nothing controversial about Thomas’s remarks; that’s pretty much the way the rest of the world viewed the situation as well. But here in Washington — as seen in the official and media reaction to the flotilla affair — criticism of Israeli policies makes you “pro-Arab.”

None of this is a defense of Thomas’s awful remarks or everything she asked at White House press conferences (having never attended one and long past the point of bothering to watch them, I generally have no idea of what Thomas did or said at press conferences). But I’m confident Thomas wasn’t the biggest buffoon or blowhard in the beltway media.

After all, this is a Washington press corps that felt Stephen Colbert had embarrassed President George W. Bush, but didn’t feel it had embarrassed itself by inviting doddering old Rich Little to replace him at the annual suck-up dinner with the political establishment.

Meanwhile, the media keeps talking about the high stakes battle over who will inherit Thomas’s front-row seat, that “prized piece of real estate.”

Please. Swampland in Florida is the more apt description.

Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


“The campaign music stopped. Hundreds of people, their faces now warped by the dread of a third bomb, began running for cover.”
Photograph © Guy Martin/Panos.
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer

Acres of mirrors in Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City:


Rhesus macaques, who normally are not self-aware, will, following brain surgery, examine their genitals in a mirror. Similar evidence of self-awareness was previously limited to higher primates, dolphins, magpies, and an elephant named Happy.

In New Hampshire, Huckleberry Finn was arrested for sexual assault.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today