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Helen Thomas: Grande Dame of the White House Press Corps

Some journalists, as the saying goes, speak truth to power. Helen Thomas made power squirm.

President Barack Obama presents Thomas with cupcakes to celebrate her 89th birthday on Aug. 4, 2009. (Obama turned 48 the same day.)

President Barack Obama presents Thomas with cupcakes to celebrate her 89th birthday on Aug. 4, 2009. (Obama turned 48 the same day.)

White House correspondent Thomas, who died on July 20 at age 92 in Washington, D.C., covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama over more than five decades. She was inquisitive – and an inquisitor. “I think that presidents deserve to be questioned, maybe irreverently, most of the time, [to] bring ’em down a size,” she explained in an HBO documentary about her life. And that she did, with a startling ferocity and tenaciousness.

She once famously pinned down Ronald Reagan, who tried to avoid answering her question by pointing to his aides and saying, “They won’t let me.” Thomas’ reply: “But you’re the president.” She once confronted George W. Bush, demanding to know, “Why did you really want to go to war?”  She wasn’t any easier on Obama.

Thomas’ New York Times obituary noted that “her blunt questions and sharp tone made her a familiar personality not only in the sometimes parochial universe inside the Beltway but also to nationwide television audiences.”

You can see her at work in this trailer for the HBO documentary: YouTube Preview Image

Here are 10 interesting facts about Thomas:

 

Here’s a college commencement appearance that Thomas made in 2007, in which she responded to an introduction by noting that “It’s always tough to hear your obituary.” YouTube Preview Image

 

Photo: White House (Pete Souza) via Wikipedia