We mark in this show the life and career of Helen Thomas, who died yesterday at the age of 92,
but her story has four distinct chapters.
There was Helen Thomas, the classic American success story,
the daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in the U.S. with less than 20 bucks to their names.
She made it good as a young female reporter in Washington for the United Press news service.
Then there was Helen Thomas, the legendary White House reporter,
breaking stories such as Gerald Ford's full pardon of Richard Nixon for Watergate,
a woman so integral to the Washington experience that political movies cast her to give them a touch of reality.
Though she reported intensely, she did not land many enduring scoops.
Few White House reporters do.
But she embraced the theatricality of her job,
asking presidents from John F.Kennedy to Barack Obama the inconvenient questions that many Americans want their leaders to face.
There was Helen Thomas, the path breaker,
time and again praying open doors for women in the notoriously clubby Washington press corps by demanding equal status.
She became not just White House correspondent but bureau chief,
not just the first female member of the Gridiron Club, but its president.
She forced open those doors because such recognitions would validate women reporters in the eyes of politicians and their journalistic peers.
She mentored hundreds of women reporters and inspired countless more.
And then there was Helen Thomas, the liberal gadfly,
her beliefs fully surfacing as she left United Press International to become a columnist for Hearst Newspapers in 2000,
along with skepticism toward Israel and American policy in the Middle East.
For three full years, wary of her barbed questions, President George W. Bush neglected to call on her.
When he finally did, Thomas asked him why he took the nation to war against Iraq at all.
There is a principle in journalism that you don't remember someone solely by the worst thing she did,
but a reporter as sharp as Thomas would notice meaningful omissions.
Late in life, Helen Thomas called on Jews living in Israel to return to the European lands in which millions of Jews were murdered amid World War II.
It was an astonishing and offensive remark.
Thomas lost her job at Hearst and it effectively ended her career.
Any honest rendering of Thomas' career must acknowledge that moment,
but any such account must also recognize the path she blazed, the battles she fought and the spin she exposed.