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[Washington Babylon]

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.

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