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Pioneering Journalist Helen Thomas Dies at 92

Helen Thomas dies at 92

Helen Thomas reads the newspaper while sitting in her chair in the White House press room in 2006. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who covered every president from Eisenhower to Obama, has died at age 92, according to The Gridiron Club & Foundation.

Thomas, who spent much of her career at United Press International before switching in her last decade in journalism to Heart Newspapers as a columnist, died Saturday morning at her Washington apartment after a long illness, according to the Gridiron Club, where Thomas was the first female member and a former president.

Her longevity at the White House gave Thomas a coveted front-row seat at briefings and allowed her, as the senior wire-service reporter, the first question at presidential news conferences. That ended when she left UPI in 2000.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports that the sometimes controversial journalist "broke barriers that prevented women from rising in the Washington Press Corps."

Thomas was born to Lebanese immigrants of little means and grew up in Michigan, attending Wayne State University before heading to the nation's capital as a copygirl for now-defunct Washington Daily News.

She covered women's issues, but held onto the White House beat for UPI, staying for decades.

Folkenflik says that "over time, her largely left-of-center views became more pronounced."

At age 89, Thomas' career finally unraveled after she was interviewed on the White House lawn by RabbiLive.com.  Asked for her comments on Israel, she replied: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine."

The remark touched off a firestorm and Hearst dropped her shortly thereafter.

Categories: Media and journalism