HBO’s short bio on longtime UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas – “Thank You, Mr. President” – premiers Monday night at 9 p.m. Tom Shales, the Washington Post’s TV critic, seems happy enough with the flick, except for its failure to tackle her harsh criticisms of Israel:
What’s disappointing about Thomas, and troubling about the film, is her stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies. Other than a passing reference to Thomas’s parents as having been Syrian immigrants, the film never hints at Thomas’s anti-Israeli rhetoric. In her writings, she’s already dismissed both John McCain and Barack Obama as being friendly to Israel and hostile to the Palestinians, “so the Israelis have no worries about the November election.”
Especially during the current administration, her “questions” at press briefings have been more like tirades, on one occasion prompting Tony Snow, the late journalist who was then press secretary, to respond, “Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view.” This would have been a pertinent and amusing clip to include in the film. Not for nothing was Thomas recently hailed as “the epitome of journalistic integrity for over 57 years” – by the Arab American News.
When controversies are a large part of a person’s career, it’s reasonable to expect even an adulatory documentary at least to mention them. “Thank You, Mr. President” could easily have included both sides – Thomas attacked and Thomas defended. Even attacking the attackers would have been more honest than ignoring the matter altogether.