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Defending Helen Thomas

Yesterday we flagged Tom Shales’ review of the new HBO short on Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps. Most notably, he knocked the film for dodging Thomas’ criticisms of Israel and America’s pro-Jerusalem policies.

Well, today, Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, slams Shales and defends Thomas:

In suggesting that the Rory Kennedy HBO documentary on Helen Thomas performed “cosmetic surgery” on the legendary reporter’s alleged major “flaw” – a rabid anti-Israel bias – Tom Shales of The Washington Post revealed, instead, what the Thomases of the world are up against in the media. To criticize Israel at all in the U.S. media generally provokes this kind of outraged and outrageous response. Of course, in Israel itself, Israelis criticize their own government and policies all the time.

Shales accuses Thomas of “stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies” but offers no evidence. There might well be a few quotes out there that would make my head explode, but I’d like to see them.

Mitchell proceeds with a point-by-point rebuttal to Shales’ piece. In the end, though, what he seems to be saying is that Thomas stood out in her criticisms of Israel, but in a good way – reflecting not ideological zealotry but the general “persistence, tenacity and guts” that she demonstrates in her job (and was praised by Shales in his review).

“One reason” Thomas is such a good example of these stellar journalistic traits, Mitchell argues, is that “she dares to criticize Israel, just like her colleagues – in the Israeli press.”

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