Helen Thomas, the pioneering White House correspondent who was known for putting presidents on the hot seat and her signature signoff at press conferences, “Thank you, Mr. President,” died Saturday at the age of 92.
Thomas broke ground by becoming the first woman assigned by a news service to cover the White House full time. It was during John F. Kennedy’s administration, and she covered every president through Barack Obama. Known for her direct and pointed questions, Thomas was the “unofficial but undisputed head” of the White House press corps, even gaining the respect and affection of the presidents she covered, The New York Times wrote.
She worked for 60 years at United Press International and later, Hearst Newspapers. Her career ended on a sour note when she commented that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine”; she retired from Hearst soon after, saying she regretted the remark.
Still, she was remembered fondly and respectfully by dignitaries, critics and fellow journalists:
RIP Helen Thomas, 92, the only White House reporter who asked 'why do terrorists want to kill us?' http://t.co/8mkHawFWdu
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) July 20, 2013
RIP Helen Thomas – died this morning at 92. Amazing trail blazer, fearless journalist and friend & mentor to so many women reporters
— Judy Woodruff (@JudyWoodruff) July 20, 2013
RIP Helen Thomas, a true pioneer in so many ways, who really understood the purpose of journalism http://t.co/WefbEBkQys
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 20, 2013
President Obama called her a pioneer who broke down barriers for women. “She covered every White House since President Kennedy’s, and during that time she never failed to keep presidents—myself included—on their toes," he said.