The undoing of White House correspondent Helen Thomas

Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas

She was the matriarch of White House correspondents — until a few ill-considered sentences from the side of the camera lens to which she is less accustomed landed her in hot water late last month and forced her abrupt resignation from a career she loved and through which she’d done yeoman service.

Helen Thomas left her front-row seat in the White House briefing room under a cloud. Would that she’d had a more honorable exit, given the body of work she’d amassed in questioning 10 American presidents, most recently for Hearst News Service.

Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC Radio’s Q, got it right in his opening monologue to yesterday’s program: “There are so many rich angles and ironies to this story. A political observer and witness to scandals and lies from multiple administrations undone by her own scandal. A reporter who sought the truth and balance undone by personal opinion. And perhaps most of all, one of the great symbols of old media being undone by the new. After her thousands of meticulously crafted reports and columns over the years, she was tripped up by a cheap camcorder, a couple of off-the-cuff questions and the power of viral video.”

Thomas issued an apology this week through her former employer: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Her resignation marked the unfortunate end of a long and distinguished career. Thomas will turn 90 on Aug. 4.

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