(CBS) Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas died early Saturday morning in Washington, D.C., CBS News confirms. She was 92 years old.
A cousin of Thomas’ confirmed her passing to CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer. There are tentative plans for a funeral in her hometown of Detroit. Friends and relatives are also discussing a Washington remembrance at a future date.
During a long career in Washington, Thomas covered every administration since Dwight Eisenhower. She worked for 57 years for United Press International (UPI), where she eventually became White House bureau manager. Between 2000 and 2010, she was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.
At 51, Thomas wed fellow reporter Douglas Thornell, who died only seven years later. The couple did not have any children.
An indefatigable presence in the White House briefing room, Thomas became a pioneer for female journalists. She was the first female member of the Gridiron Club and the first female president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. As news of her death spread on Saturday, several prominent female journalists took to Twitter to hail Thomas as a groundbreaking figure.
Despite her long career, Thomas became embroiled in controversy in 2010 when she was asked about her views on the State of Israel. An Arab-American who was raised as a Christian, Thomas suggested Israel was occupying Palestine and that Israelis should “get the hell out.”
When asked where they should go, she said they should “go home” to Europe or “America and everywhere else.”
After her comments ignited a controversy, she was forced to resign from her job at Hearst.
It was an unfortunate chapter in an otherwise storied career, and Thomas herself grew emotional reflecting on the blowup during a 2011 interview with Playboy Magazine.
“They don’t give a damn about the truth,” she said of her critics, fighting back tears. “They have to have it their way, and they’ll be writing my obituary…And I don’t care what they write about me. They’ve already written it.”
Reflecting on Thomas’ life and her decades of work, CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds, who worked with Thomas at UPI, wrote, “I did not agree with her on the Middle East; I thought she was mistaken and short-sighted. But a lifetime of great work should not be overshadowed by a comment made at an advanced age.”
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