Arena Digest: Should Helen Thomas be forced into retirement?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Tevi Troy, former Bush administration official, visiting senior fellow, Hudson Institute 

    Helen Thomas is entitled to her opinions, but she is not entitled to be honored for them. Her status as “dean of the White House press corps” has long enabled her to get away with being downright rude and disrespectful to the presidents whom she did not cover so much as hector. Her most recent outrageous comments have finally pierced the bubble of protectiveness that her age and tenure provided her. 

    Yousef Munayyer, executive director, the Jerusalem Fund 

    Thomas, who has covered every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, is a journalism legend. The first question she asked President Barack Obama was if he knew of any countries in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, and Obama kowtowed to the Israeli policy of nuclear ambiguity and dodged the question. Last month, we learned that Israel not only has nuclear weapons but also was a proliferator of nuclear technology. 

    If we had more journalists doing their job during the Bush era, we would be in a different position today. Helen Thomas needs to be saluted for an enormous, productive and just body of work. “You betcha” Sarah Palin types want her gone. There is nothing they’d love more than to be able to run a country unchecked.
     
    Christine Pelosi, attorney, author, Democratic activist 

    This is not about free speech. Surely, Thomas is free to speak her mind as surely as Palin’s fellow travelers in the tea party movement who wave banners comparing health care reform with the Holocaust and “death panels” to Nazi camps. Americans have a right to speak — and to respond. While the marketplace of ideas will ultimately place a value on the currency of bigotry, I hope it’s low enough that we don’t reward either side with a TV anchor position, public office or front-row seat at the White House. 

    This is not about age. All who work to fight age discrimination know that to “blame it on age” as a rationale or excuse is to condescend to seniors and to minimize the offensiveness of the remarks. Many of us who wrote against ageism when it came to John McCain object to ageism now when it comes to Helen Thomas. At 89, Thomas isn’t too old to work — obviously she speaks her mind quite clearly. And Lord knows, most others fired or suspended or demoted, such as Lou Dobbs and Imus, are much younger. Age doesn’t matter in bigotry. 

    Richard A. Grenell, former spokesman to four United Nations ambassadors 

    Two words: Don Imus. So where is the mainstream media on Thomas’s hateful words? She hasn’t been an unbiased journalist for years. Her liberal rantings and diatribes have been lamely disguised as questions and yet, because she is old and practiced, she’s been excused. 

    Mickey Edwards, Princeton lecturer, former GOP congressman 

    If Thomas has suddenly, at age 89, discovered a bias against Israel (and, frankly, the suggestion that Israelis should go somewhere else — perhaps “go back to where you belong?” — smacks of something far worse than merely taking sides in a territorial dispute), then the right question is: Should one know when to hang it up? 

    But if one assumes (and I do) that such prejudices do not suddenly arise in one’s 89th year, the bigger question goes to the biases that may have colored Thomas’s reporting over time. The question that arises from the incident is the extent to which consumers of the news can expect the straight scoop or whether it is necessary to assume that “the facts” as reported are merely opinion and, worse, opinion derived from bias.