Helen Thomas is a press legend, she has harangued 9 presidents, John F. Kennedy had to deal with her in 1961, and George W. Bush is still trying to find a way to answer her probing, and potentially embarrassing questions. Helen Thomas is hell on wheels if you are a politician and want to hold a press conference in Washington, be ready to have to deal with some searching questions from Ms Thomas. It is never advisable to discuss a young ladies age, but I am pretty sure she is in her 80’s, and more than capable of giving a verbal mugging to the current president or any of his minions.

HBO have found a fine subject to profile in their Monday evening series of documentaries. This feisty lady that has no political leanings has been a pain it the butt for every president for the last 50 years!

I am mainly a reviewer and interviewer, but I play in the Journo world as well, and Helen Thomas has been a huge influence.

Thank You Mr President explores not just Helen Thomas, but the changing role that reporters have had when dealing with the White House. Helen explains that in the early days, and as I recall the White House Press Corp was created in the late 1890’s, there was an unwritten rule that the press would follow the politics and not the private lives of the politicians. Although it was not Helen that made the change, the JFK presidency changed those rules. Maybe it was because he was more accessible, younger, had a pretty wife, and young children. Suddenly the president was an accessible target.

She challenged Bill Clinton with what has to be the best question ever ‘You have told us what your relationship with Monika Lewinsky was not, so what was your relationship? Clinton dodged this faster than a speeding bullet.

Helen explains that the rules of engagement have changed, what used to be a very friendly group of pols and journos has changed into more of a running battle.

This is a documentary that every journalist should watch, to learn the rules, and a documentary that every one else should watch to get an understanding of how the White House relates to the press. And the answer that Helen Thomas gives us is “all presidents hate us”.

What a great documentary. Helen has locked horns with all of the administrations. She is a character, actually she is an institution. While the rest of the oppressed media asked the questions that the administration wanted, Helen asked the awkward questions. What a lady!

Thank You Mr President premiers on HBO at 9:00pm on Monday August 19th.

Watch it, you might learn a lot.

Simon Barrett


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