Saturday, March 29, 2003

Demonizing a critic. Helen Thomas has never been a giant of her trade. However, she is dogged and dedicated, and deserves a lot of respect for being one of the first women to rise to the top of Washington political reportage. She is also absolutely fearless in asking questions -- a quality in short supply these days.

But here's how it works. A few months ago she called George W. Bush "the worst president ever." She immediately became a target of the right-wing attack machine, although its insults were hampered by the fact that Thomas, now with the Hearst newspapers, no longer works for a national media outlet.

Then, at Bush's March 6 news conference, Thomas was not called on, even though the 82-year-old columnist, as the dean of the White House press corps, traditionally gets the first question. Few complained; many cackled. The Fox News Channel's Brit Hume tarnished his reputation as one of that operation's few real pros by calling Thomas "the nutty aunt in the attic of the Washington press corps."

Now every time Thomas asks a question, she gets hammered. The latest entry: a column by right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, who calls Thomas a "crusty ex-journalist-turned-White House heckler" for having the audacity to press smarmy White House spokesman Ari Fleischer about the conditions at Guantánamo Bay. (The column is in today's Boston Herald, but it's not online on the paper's website. Click here instead; or if it has been replaced with something new, try clicking here.)

According to Malkin, Thomas has no right even to ask such a thing at a time when American and British soldiers are being treated brutally by Iraqi forces. (And yes, they are being treated brutally, but that doesn't negate our obligation to treat prisoners humanely, or a journalist's right to ask about it.) Malkin writes:

I admire Fleischer's super-human restraint in the face of this disgusting display of moral equivalence masquerading as journalism. Thomas sees pictures of dead American soldiers being molested by cackling Iraqi assassins, she sees video of dazed and wounded young American soldiers in captivity, and all she can do is harangue the Bush administration for not giving Guantanamo Bay terror detainees enough "rights?"

Let there be no doubt about where Helen Thomas's heart lies.

Let there be no doubt about where Michelle Malkin's heart lies -- in advancing her career by acting as a toady for the White House, attacking and denigrating anyone who has the temerity even to ask a tough question.

This is really vile, because the effect is not just to hold Helen Thomas up to undeserved mockery, but to intimidate anyone who dares follow in her footsteps.

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