By Jack Engelhard
I’ve never been a fan of Helen Thomas (her rants against Israel, for starters) but this time she’s got me on her side. Good for her! While the rest of her colleagues in the press keep fawning over the Administration, Thomas literally stood up against all the media manipulation going on when, in a heated exchange with press secretary Robert Gibbs, she said that she’d never seen anything like this – this sort of “management” of the news.
Thomas, who’s been a White House correspondent since the days of JFK, came straight out with it in follow-up interviews, saying, “What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” Well, yes, judging from all the giggling that usually occurs at what are supposed to be press briefings but which sound more like press Love-Ins.
“It’s blatant,” said Thomas, speaking also about those town-hall set-ups that appear to be so rigged.
Speaking of blatant, as well as corruption, here comes the Washington Post. Yes, the Washington Post that we used to admire since the days of Woodward and Bernstein. Well forget that. The word is out that elements within that newspaper were selling access to White House power brokers at a price ranging from $25,000 to $250,000. Buy a cabinet member, a congressman?
This news is still breaking but it appears that lobbyists were invited to attend a “salon” at those prices to mix and mingle with the Administration’s high and mighty. On top of that, these well-heeled lobbyists were being enticed to schmooze with the Post’s journalists at the home of publisher Katherine Weymouth. Where have you gone, Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee?
The Post – after all this was revealed by Mike Allen, once a reporter for the same newspaper – has since ditched that party, but we still don’t know if it was stopped only because of the embarrassment. Was the publisher herself in on this? Did editors and reporters know what was going on, and did they approve?
Would the party still have been a go if word hadn’t leaked out about this latest romance among the press, the Administration and the lobbyists?
Lobbyists – wasn’t that a dirty word when Barack Obama was still a candidate?
Some may recall the good old days when the press worked for the facts, the truth, and yes, for the people, and not for the government. What happened? My guess is that it did indeed all start with Woodward and Bernstein, whose dogged and courageous reporting brought down a president. Following that, a generation that would otherwise have chosen social services entered journalism to“change the world.” How exciting and how romantic!
So we have dreamers instead of reporters. We have lobbyists pretending to be journalists. They lobby for the White House. That’s what fills our newsrooms today.
The Washington Post is not alone in selling its brand for a price, even the price of non-partisanship. (See “The Bathsheba Deadline” for HALF THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT.) The list of newspapers that have forgotten their duty as a free and adversarial Fourth Estate – the list is long. There is no time or space to mention all the media corruption going on as we watch ourselves being manipulated eyes wide open.
But Helen Thomas has been there, done that, and has had enough, and for once, she merits our attention, for without a free press we risk being a free people no more.
Jack Engelhard’s latest thriller, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” which centers on media deceit against America and Israel, is available in paperback at Amazon. He can be reached, and his Works can be viewed, at www.jackengelhard.com