Every theater-style seat in the White House briefing room, now closed for renovation, had a brass plaque inscribed with the name of a news organization. Only one, in the middle of the front row, had a name: "HELEN THOMAS," it said. The unique assigned seat between the chairs for CBS News and ABC News was reserved for the legendary United Press International correspondent who is now a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.
The press corps is scheduled to move from temporary facilities back into the spiffed-up, rewired briefing room in May or June. Thomas, who has been questioning presidents and press secretaries for 46 years, plans to be there. But her front-row seat won't be. Plans call for her to be moved to the second row to make room for a cable news channel - a sign of Washington's changing pecking order, and of the new ways that Americans get their news.
"I didn't think I had a monopoly on that seat," Thomas, 86, said in a telephone interview. "Since my peers have decided that I don't belong there, I'll bow to their - I'll drink the - What did Socrates drink?"
"I'll drink it," she said. "You have to submit to the will of the people, and apparently this is the will of my peers. It's OK with me. I've had a good run in the front seat."
I'm sorry, but this is truly ridiculous. Give Helen the respect she deserves. At least she asks the right questions. If all CNN and Fox are going to do is play stenographer for the White House, they can do that from the second row.