21 Jul 2013

Veteran White House correspondent dead

12:08 pm on 21 July 2013

Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas has died in Washington after a long illness. She covered the White House for nearly five decades.

Ms Thomas, 92, reported on 10 presidents and was known for asking difficult questions.

The BBC reports she was a fixture at White House news conferences and considered a pioneer for women in journalism.

Born to Lebanese immigrants in Kentucky in 1920, Ms Thomas started as a copy girl for a small Washington newspaper before moving to the United Press wire service for whom she covered the presidential campaign of John F Kennedy.

She became the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association and the only female print journalist to travel with President Richard Nixon on his first trip to China.

As the senior news service correspondent at the White House, she was often the one who would end the news conference with the phrase "Thank you, Mr President".

Ms Thomas was a fierce defender of Palestinian rights and her career ended under a cloud in 2010 after she said in an interview that Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Germany, Poland and America. She later said she deeply regretted the comments.

Her husband, Douglas Cornell, who was chief White House correspondent for Associated Press, died in 1982.