Charles Goyette Interviews Helen Thomas
Helen Thomas, dean of the White House press corps talks about her frustrations with the war in Iraq and trying to get a straight answer out of the boy emperor.
Commonly referred to as “The First Lady of the Press,” former White House Bureau Chief Helen Thomas is a trailblazer, breaking through barriers for women reporters while covering every President since John F. Kennedy. For 57 years, Helen also served as White House correspondent for United Press International. She recently left this post and joined Hearst Newspapers as a syndicated columnist.
Born in Winchester, Kentucky, Helen Thomas was raised in Detroit, Michigan where she attended public schools and later graduated from Wayne State University. Upon leaving college, Helen served as a copy girl on the old, now defunct Washington Daily News. In 1943, Ms. Thomas joined United Press International and the Washington Press Corps.
For 12 years, Helen wrote radio news for UPI, her work day beginning at 5:30am. Eventually she covered the news of the Federal government, including the FBI and Capitol Hill.
In November, 1960, Helen Thomas began covering then President elect John F. Kennedy, following him to the White House in January, 1961 as a member of the UPI team. It was during this first White House assignment that Thomas began closing presidential press conferences with “Thank you, Mr. President.”
In September, 1971, Pat Nixon scooped Helen by announcing her engagement to Associated Press’ retiring White House correspondent, Douglas B. Cornell at a White house party hosted by then President Nixon in honor of Cornell.
Thomaswas the only woman print journalist traveling with then President Nixon to China during his breakthrough trip in January, 1972. She has the distinction of having traveled around the world several times with Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, during the course of which she covered every Economic Summit. The World Almanac has cited her as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America.