Helen Thomas, a trailblazing journalist who covered the White House for nearly five decades, has died aged 92. She died at her Washington apartment after a long illness, the Gridiron Club, Washington’s historic press organisation, said.
Ms Thomas covered the administrations of 10 presidents and was known for asking difficult questions. She was a fixture at White House news conferences and considered a pioneer for women in journalism.
Veteran NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell tweeted that Helen Thomas “made it possible for all of us who followed”. Born to Lebanese immigrants in Kentucky in 1920, Helen Thomas found her calling while working for her student newspaper at school. She started out as a copy girl for a small Washington newspaper before moving to the United Press (UPI) wire service with whom she covered the presidential campaign of John F Kennedy.
Following Kennedy’s election, the huge demand for stories about First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy helped Ms Thomas secure her place within the White House press corps. Over the next decade, she began to report harder news and became UPI’s White House bureau chief in the 1970s – the first woman to hold the post.
From her seat in the middle of the front row of the briefing room, she would grill presidents and exasperate government spokespeople with her pointed, persistent questions.