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Humorless Hume Says Helen Thomas Has 'Agenda'

Reported by Judy - March 21, 2006

Neil Cavuto may have seen a little fun in the encounter between veteran journalist Helen Thomas and George Bush at a rare Bush news conference on Tuesday (March 21, 2006), but Brit Hume saw nothing to laugh about and told the "Dayside" crew that Thomas has "an agenda."

Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy interviewed Hume on "Dayside" about Thomas' question to Bush about his reasons for going to war, as reported earlier here by Melanie, and asked if Thomas had an "agenda" with regard to George Bush. Hume said he knew Thomas from his years in the White House press corps with her.

"She has an agenda period and always has had an agenda of sorts. Helen Thomas is quite passionate about the Middle East. She is of Middle Eastern descent. She is very pro-Palestinian and is basically a political liberal. ... She has very strong views about a number of issues and she is not above putting them into the questions that she asks, which tend to be highly argumentative. She's not above interrupting a president when he's answering and so forth. To some people, it's journalism in its most heroic form. To others, it's tendentious (partisan) and unprofessional and I'll leave it to our viewers to decide which they think it is," he said.

If there is anybody who should know about unprofessional and partisan behavior as a journalist, it certainly should be one who works for Fox News Channel. Hume did not have any quarrel with anything Thomas wrote. At least, he never mentioned any. His quarrel was with her questions -- her habit of asking argumentative questions.

That used to be what journalists did every day, but in the last 25 years, journalists have so gotten out of the habit of doing that, that people like Helen Thomas stand out. All journalists used to be like her. Now, she is an oddity. Bush always avoided calling on her because he knew she would ask tough questions. If all the journalists asked tough questions, however, Bush would not have been any better off in ignoring her. But modern celebrity journalists have been less willing to make waves than the likes of Thomas.

Then there are the "faux" journalists -- the Jeff Gannons who were plants in the press corps and Fox News reporters who truly do have an agenda to make George Bush look good, the White House propaganda channel that lets Bush's cousin staff the desk that helps make election-night calls and whose reporter covering John Kerry made up a phony story ridiculing the Democratic presidential candidate and posted it on the web. And these people have the guts to say Helen Thomas has an agenda?

A measure of how low journalism has sunk is the reaction to AP reporter Jennifer Loven's article on Bush's use of "straw men" in his comments. Loven now finds herself under attack from the right for stringing together a bunch of "Bush-isms" and pointing out this habit. Her article is just basic, good journalism, and we've forgotten what it looks like.

If Helen Thomas has an agenda, it's to hold our leaders accountable for us. Too bad more journalists don't have the same agenda.

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