The world of Twitter mourned on Saturday following the news that Helen Thomas, a well-respected journalist who reported on every U.S. president from John Kennedy to Barack Obama, died at the age of 92.
“Helen Thomas was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism,” tweeted Obama.
George Stephanopoulos, American journalist and former political advisor said: “Rest in peace Helen Thomas. We sparred. We laughed. I so admired her tenacity.”
Thomas – the daughter of Lebanese immigrants – had a strong interest in the Middle East and was a fierce defender of Palestinian rights. She was known to be blunt and fearless in her style of reporting and questioning.
Ann Curry, international correspondent for NBC News, tweeted a Thomas quote, saying: “Without free press, there can be no democracy – Helen Thomas.”
Meanwhile, Al Arabiya’s Washington DC bureau chief, Hisham Melhem, tweeted: “RIP #HelenThomas. A feisty, irreverent interrogator of people in power & a practitioner of hand-to-hand questioning. From Nixon to George W.”
Michael Moore, a well-known U.S. filmmaker and political activists, linked to a YouTube video in which Thomas mercilessly questions former U.S. President George W. Bush, saying: "While a compliant press did nothing, one WH correspondent refused to be a tool."
“RIP Helen Thomas, 92, the only White House reporter who asked 'why do terrorists want to kill us?” he added.
Thomas had sparked controversy when a videotape circulated on the Internet showing her as saying that Israelis should “get out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany, Poland or the United States.
USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page tweeted: “She made missteps for sure, but #HelenThomas was a friend and an ally of the women journalists who followed her. Including me.
Meanwhile, some, like national political correspondent for the Washington Post Karen Tumulty, found it hard to express their condolences in Twitter’s 140-character field, saying: “So many ‘first woman’ this or thats associated with Helen Thomas. Would take way more than 140 characters to tell them.”
Thomas was a ground breaker at the forefront of women’s achievements in journalism. She broke the barrier of the White House “women’s beat,” which were stories about the presidents’ children and wives and their fashion. Instead, she made a name for herself by covering news on an equal footing with men.