Helen Thomas, the bulldog in the White House press corp for nine different presidential administrations, has died at the age of 92. Friend Muriel Dobbin tells the AP that Thomas died in her apartment in Washington D.C. after having been in and out of the hospital.
Thomas was the first female White House bureau chief for a wire service when she was named to the position by United Press International in 1974. She was also the first female officer at the once-men-only National Press Club.
Thomas was never shy about voicing her opinions and eventually that is what ended her career. A video went viral in 2010 that showed Thomas saying the Israelis should get out of Palestine and “go home” to Germany, Poland or the U.S.
Prior to that, she criticized President George W. Bush to his face about the Iraq war and told an autograph seeked that she was “covering the worst president in American history.” She was later frozen out of a press conference for the first time in 40 years. She eventually wrote to the president to apologize.
But she didn’t go any easier on President Obama, complaining that he had more control over the press than even President Nixon. But he did help her celebrate her 89th birthday — he brought her cupcakes and had the press corp sing “Happy birthday” to her, as she and President Obama share the same birthday.
In Thomas’ personal life, she married Douglas Cornell in 1971 and they were together until his death in 1982. In a fun bit of trivia, he was the chief White House correspondent for the Associated Press, UPI’s rival wire service. They did not have any children.