Thursday, March 03, 2005

Arab Bashing Reaches Low With Thomas Slur

Arab Bashing Reaches Low With Thomas Slur
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
Helen Thomas seen in this file photo from May 3, 2000. (AFP)  
WASHINGTON, 2 March 2005 — Arab bashing reached a new low in Washington last week when Ann Coulter, a loudmouthed, mean-spirited, pro-Bush columnist, decided to defend the White House press pass controversy over faux-reporter James Guckert (a.k.a. Jeff Gannon) by writing in her syndicated column: “Press passes can’t be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president.”

Thomas, whose Hearst column is distributed by King Features Syndicate, is of Lebanese descent. The former United Press International reporter has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, and has covered every president since John F. Kennedy. She was the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association.

Even her syndicators realized the gaffe. When Coulter’s column was posted on Universal Press Syndicate’s (UPS) website, someone edited out the race-based slur “that old Arab Helen Thomas,” using instead: “that dyspeptic, old Helen Thomas.”

But the “old Arab” reference still appears the column posted on Coulter’s website:

Coulter was, perhaps, taking a cue from the White House, which has slighted Thomas several times since 2003. During a televised news conference, President George W. Bush deliberately snubbed several reporters he ordinarily calls upon, including journalists from the Washington Post, Newsweek, and USA Today. But the most conspicuous recipient of the Bush freeze-out was Thomas, who has barbed and grilled every president since Kennedy and almost always gets to ask a question. Bush pointedly ignored her.

Bush then dealt Thomas a second slight. By custom, Thomas concludes White House press conferences at the president’s signal by saying, “Thank you, Mr. President.” Bush instead ended the conference with his own sign off, “Thank you for your questions,” and killed a decades-old White House custom. Lastly, she was removed from her front row seat, and delegated to a back seat in the press choir.....