Really? This is going to be the (semi-)defense?
SCARBOROUGH: All I can say is this. And I think I can say this, because I’m a pro-Israeli guy that was, like, 100 percent with AIPAC or whatever. 89. I don’t want my parents on TV now and they are not 89. And I know your dad is good [Pointing to Mika] But most people in their 80s are going to say things they shouldn’t say because people in their 80s aren’t the people they have been for the past 50, 60, 70 years.
BRZEZINSKI: Actually, you can argue they are better because they are exactly who they are because they don’t care as much about, you know- they just say it…
SCARBOROUGH: My parents say things and I’m like, you know what? Close the door and do not say that. Love them, they are great, but as- I just think that you cut them slack. I think you cut her slack at 89. Somebody goes and talks to her and says, “Helen, you know what? Smile in the front row and ask a question every once in a while.”
BRZEZINSKI: Joe, just go to sports.
I can’t find the vid but here’s a snippet from the same segment, where you’ll find Savannah Guthrie making the “maybe she didn’t know what she was saying” argument and Scarborough observing that he wouldn’t want someone sticking a camera in his grandmother’s face and asking pointed questions. Two things, though. One: Most grandmothers aren’t used to contentious back-and-forths in front of a lens. Thomas has been doing it for decades. If she can’t be trusted to give a coherent answer when asked a simple question about foreign policy, why has she been allowed to take up space in the daily briefings since my dad was in his teens? Two: Righties love to take digs at her age, partly to suggest that her bias comes from senility, but truth be told, I can’t remember ever seeing her come off as incoherent in the press briefing. For a woman her age — 90 this year — she’s actually remarkably cogent and vibrant. If you believe that she belched up that “Jews out of Israel” soundbite due to some passing fugue state, you probably also believe that Mel Gibson really did go off on that Jewish cop that time only because he was drunk, not because he let his guard down and said what he really thought. She’s been asking questions about the “brutal military occupation and suppression” in the Holy Land for years, and like Jonah Goldberg says, she’s been a nasty piece of work for decades. Why give her the benefit of the doubt because of her age now?
Alarming exit quotation from veteran journalist Matt Welch: “Show me the world’s most intractable problems–the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the inability to produce mass amounts of energy without negatively impacting the environment, the search for a beer that tastes great and is less filling–and I’ll show you reporters in bars having conversations worthy of the Alex Jones show.”
Update: What’s the big deal, wonders Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Thomas opened many doors for women journalists; she was the first woman officer of the National Press Club after it opened its doors to women members, the first woman member and president of the White House Correspondents Association and the first woman member of the Gridiron club. In 1998, Thomas was honored by President Clinton as the first recipient of the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award. She will mark her 90th birthday on Aug. 4.
None of these prestigious firsts or awards protected Thomas from the firestorm that followed her remarks. Time columnist Joe Klein wrote that Thomas should be stripped of her privileged seat in the White House briefing room. Her remarks were offensive, but considering her journalistic moxie and courage over many decades — in sharp contrast to the despicable deeds committed by so many littering the Washington political scene — isn’t there room for someone who made a mistake, apologized for it and wants to continue speaking truth to power and asking tough questions?
For an example of the “tough questions” vanden Heuvel is so impressed with, see here. Plain and simple: What Thomas said wasn’t a “mistake.” There’s no reason to think that it doesn’t represent her actual view. The only mistake was being candid about it. That being so, why give her a platform? Or rather: Why continue to give a platform to an 89-year-old instead of to a younger, more deserving journalist?