Report: Helen Thomas accused SPJ officer of working for the Israeli government after losing award

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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The fall of Helen Thomas has been a storied and sad tale and almost every day it seems like another chapter is added.

An article by Michael Miner, which appeared in the March 3 Chicago Reader, detailed some of the fallout that occurred following the Society of Professional Journalists’ decision to retire its “Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement.” The story describes some of the internal friction within the SPJ over the decision to retire the award, but also pointed out Thomas’ reaction to that decision. It wasn’t pretty. (h/t Alana Goodman, Commentary magazine)

According to Miner’s article, in a phone conversation that Thomas had with SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Steve Geimann, the embattled former UPI White House correspondent accused Geimann of being part of some sort of conspiracy.

“After the board decided, Geimann called Thomas, and a day later she called him back,” Miner wrote. “The conversation didn’t go well. ‘She said she already knew,’ Geimann reported. ‘She asked if I worked for the Israeli government and said SPJ was taking away her honor. I tried to explain that the then-recommendation preserved the honor for her, and the other recipients would forever be HT lifetime achievement honorees. She complained about the recommendation, suggested her First amendment rights were being denied then hung up on me.’”

Miner also reported about a follow-up phone call between former SPJ President Christine Tatum, a friend of Thomas’, and Thomas. During the call, Thomas was angry and crying according to Tatum, quoted in Miner’s story:

“I called her. I said, ‘Did you hang up on Steve?’ She said, ‘Yes, do you want to know why?’ It took him a day and a half to call, and in the meantime she was hearing from these reporters from Jewish news agencies jubilantly trumpeting this [the loss of her award]. Yes, she was angry. In fact, she was crying. She was getting these calls and she was crying.”

Back in January, Thomas was hired by the Falls Church News-Press. Thomas has shown little remorse for her May 2009 remarks suggesting Israeli Jews go back to Europe which prompted her firing. She has, however, won the sympathy of former President Jimmy Carter.