HuffPost‘s media writer Michael Calderone wrote a story Tuesday on White House veteran reporter Helen Thomas being turned down for a full table at the upcoming White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.
In his first version, Calderone reported that the Association turned down Thomas’ request for a full table. Soon, however, there was a “clarification.” Thomas had always known that as a past president of WHCA she would be able to purchase two tickets for the dinner. But she was greedy. With her impressive resume (which includes a spread in Playboy) she wanted the whole goddamn table. That two ticket offer still stands, Calderone wrote in a parenthesis he added to a later version with a “clarification.”
Is it news to say a former journalist can’t buy a whole table for an event that’s always overcrowded and inevitably has news organizations whining about not having enough seats? It isn’t against Association rules for any one person to buy a table. It just isn’t typically done. “Given how tight the room is (I think we have refunded more than one thousand seat requests this year) I can’t imagine any single person getting a whole table, but I don’t think there is any rule against it,” said SiriusXM’s Julie Mason, who sits on the board. “Usually an unaffiliated member — like a freelancer, or single-member bureau — gets a couple of tickets.”
While the insider letters exchanged between Thomas and the Association are interesting along with the history that she paved the way for female reporters to attend the dinner, the lede was inflated. Helen doesn’t get a table? No one person would likely ever get a table. Not even HuffPost‘s own Arianna Huffington can get all the tables she wants, no matter how much she complains.
What many Washington insiders feel is this: The evening is WHCA’s annual fundraiser, not a celebration of Helen. She is feted, celebrated, awarded and paid tribute at a level that could make a person vomit. Maybe HuffPost would like to give up one of their tables? We can hear Arianna screaming now.
Commenters on the story are sublime. For her: “She deserves a table…this is sickening.” And, “She did journalism and women a favor with her determination, talent and courage. The profession owes her.” And, “Let her have her last harrah [sic] she has earned it!!!!!!!!!!!” Or, “It’s beyond petty of the WHCA to do this to Helen Thomas, they should be ashamed of themselves.” Or, “She earned her place at that table. One comment and she gets fried.” Against her: “I know she is old but we can’t always expect more than what is fair because of it.” And, “Sense of entitlement runs deep in these former elite talking heads.” And, “It’s her choice to go and have a good time or sulk because she’s ONLY being accomodated like former Presidents.” Many questioned why it was a news story in the first place. “I wonder if I write a letter to President Obama for a personal audience and get I turned down, to whom should I submit this for a news story?”
Ultimately, the news is this: Helen can purchase two tickets. It’s her party and she can go if she wants to.