I was there when (then) White House Correspondent Helen Thomas was stopped - as she headed to the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House - by Rabbi Nesenoff as he began his interview with the storied reporter.
Rabbi Nesenoff (seated left of woman in glasses) at the President's media event prior to the
Jewish American Heritage reception at the White House on May 27, 2010. Photo/CD Brown.
Apparently, what started out as a friendly interview by Nesenoff, his son and another young Jewish American from New York, credentialed to cover the Jewish American Heritage Festival on May 27th (their first time at the White House) turned sour, and shocked many.
As I stopped by to briefly listen to the interview, Ms. Thomas was asked by Rabbi Nesenoff about her career in the media as well as what advice she had to those just starting out in the media, to which Ms. Thomas replied, "Keep doing it. You'll never be bored." In essence, she was telling the three zealous interviewers that working in the media was always interesting and never a dull moment.
She was right on that point.
Thinking the interview was harmless and the three gentlemen just wanted to get advice from one of the icons of White House media (after all who better to get advice from than one who has covered politics for over 60 years?), I excused myself and went on my way.
I should have stayed.
As I mentioned earlier, that seemingly innocent interview went terribly awry when Thomas was later asked by the Rabbi about her comments on Israel.
Thomas replied, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine." Remember, these people are occupied. And it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland."
Nonetheless, you cannot discredit the amazing career of Helen Thomas and her trailblazing legacy. Whether in the realm of reporting we are to remain neutral, or not; and in a world where we are told it is better to say something nice, or nothing at all, I am personally grateful for the opportunity to have met Helen Thomas.
'Tis a shame that at the expense of those seeking media attention, an entire career was wiped out with just one interview.
Here's wishing Thomas well, and to paraphrase a quote she made popular, Thank You, Ms. Thomas.