Helen Thomas, the White House press corps matriarch who spoke Monday at the Truman Museum in Independence, defended her most recent book, Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public, published last year. The book charges the Washington press establishment of growing timid during the run-up to the Iraq War.
“I don’t think they liked it,” Thomas said, after being asked what her colleagues thought of the book.
“The Washington Post panned it, a few others panned it, but a lot of people say they liked it. Anyway, I didn’t write it to be liked. I wrote it to get my outrage off my chest and to make a point.”
Thomas also seemed disappointed that The Star reporter interviewing her had not read the book.
“Well, if would be nice if you’d buy it,” she said. “I’m in the sales department now.”
Later she regaled a Truman Museum audience with anecdotes from her career with the White House press corps, which began in 1961.
Covering Lyndon Johnson, she said, was strenuous. The walking press conferences that Johnson conducted on the south lawn on the White House, she said, were known among correspondents as “Bataan death marches.” Reporters and White House staffers alike were subject to Johnson’s whims, she added.
“I went to Texas twice without a toothbrush; he was that impromptu,” she said.
She also told of once interviewing Lillian Carter, mother of Jimmy Carter.
“She said `Every time I look at my children, I wish I had remained a virgin,’ ” Thomas said.
Thomas also seemed a little territorial in regards to the emerging political blogosphere.
“Everybody with a laptop thinks they’re a journalist now,” she said.
Posted by Brian Burnes