Helen Thomas Pays for Crossing a Line Others Trample

By Michelle Chen Jun 08, 2010

By now you’ve heard: pioneering Washington journalist Helen Thomas has, thanks to a viral video interview, been pilloried for offensive comments about Israel and ousted from the press corps’ inner sanctum. Her words were definitely incendiary—Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Europe and America. But the reaction suggests that the Rabbilive ambush was just a catalyst for a gathering storm of political enmity. She was after all, one of the few hard-nosed reporters (and women) in the briefing room who ruthlessly challenged the White House on foreign policy issues. To George W. Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer, the comments were tantamount to a call for genocide: "She is advocating religious cleansing," he told Huffington Post. "How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs." Getting fired for bigoted words? Somehow that fate has not befallen the cabal of right-wing bloviators who have literally built their careers pushing the propaganda war against Latinos, other people of color, gay people, liberals and anyone else they disagree with. They’re not journalists in the formal sense, but their frothing tirades, word-for-word, arguably wield more influence over the corporate news cycle. In contrast to Thomas-gate, though, Limbaugh and friends don’t need to be ambushed and exposed by rogue YouTube muckrakers. They’ve spewed their venom to millions daily on television and radio, backed by advertisers, media executives and an audience that happily blinds itself to political hypocrisy.