Photo by Splash NewsWhen journalist Helen Thomas opened her mouth about the Middle East, she became a victim of a media double standard. Few, if any, have given veteran journalist Thomas any leeway for saying, when asked about the Israeli blockade of a Palestinian ship that resulted in the deaths of several people, that Jews living in Gaza should get out and go back to “where they came from." But Thomas isn’t the only media person who’s uttered something shockingly outrageous or outrageously shocking over the course of a career, and most of those people still have jobs.
Let me be clear. I’m not making excuses for what Thomas said, but I keep wondering why she got the ax, when so many in her same line of work have kept their jobs even after uttering things that were equally troubling.
I have to ask -- where are the pink slips for Rush Limbaugh, the crew at Fox News, or Pat Buchanan, just to name a few, who’ve gone out on equally offensive ledges, but who still remain on our airwaves as arbiters of news and information?
Why was it okay to give a pass to Don Imus just because he’s a “radio personality” rather than a news reporter? Were his racially loaded remarks about "nappy headed 'hos" any less offensive than Thomas’ statements? Sure, he lost his job for a little while, but he was soon back. Limbaugh got a pass even though he suggested that we all ought to just get over what happened in Nazi Germany since it happened over 60 years ago. That’s not something that would go over well in my husband’s family, since they lost many relatives to Hitler’s atrocities.
David Shuster of MSNBC only got a slap on the wrist when he remarked that Hillary Clinton was "pimping out" her daughter Chelsea to help her in her presidential campaign. After a few days off, he was back at his daytime anchor desk.
Journalists, as well as those who want us to think of them as credible news sources, sometimes say things that shock our sensitivities. Most of them don’t lose their jobs over it -- even those who’ve said racist things about President Obama. In today’s “news “ world, the lines are blurred daily between reporting and politically motivated commentary, yet those people aren’t pondering whether to file for unemployment.
But why Helen Thomas?
That’s what it’s really about these days -- the money. Who do the networks and news organizations make their cash from? If you’ve got a prominent name and you’re pulling in the big bucks for your corporate employer, you can survive your own Holocaust references, drug scandals, and thoughtless comments that most of us would never have the nerve to put out there. But if you're one of the many (regardless of your former name recognition and place in news history) who just feed the beast, it’s no financial penalty to let you go. You can bet that Helen Thomas -- one of the first women in the White House press corps and one of the first to be admitted to the once all-male National Press Club -- would still be hanging on to that seat in the front row for her 90th birthday and beyond if she had the ability to generate the revenue that today’s “news personalities” do.
I have no doubt that if it were Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews in Thomas' shoes, they wouldn’t be sweating a thing.