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Helen Thomas (born August 4, 1920) is an American news service reporter, a Hearst Newspapers columnist, member of the White House Press Corps and author. She served for fifty-seven years as a correspondent and, later, White House bureau chief for United Press International (UPI). Thomas has covered every President of the United States since John F. Kennedy. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, and, in 1975, the first female member of the Gridiron Club. She has written five books; her latest with co-author Craig Crawford is Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do.

Early life and career

Thomas was born in Winchester, Kentuckymarker, to Lebanesemarker Christian immigrants from Tripoli, Lebanonmarker, which at the time was part of Syriamarker. She was brought up in Detroit, Michiganmarker and attended Wayne Universitymarker (now Wayne State University), graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1942. Thomas's first job in journalism was as a copygirl for the now-defunct Washington Daily News, but shortly after she was promoted to cub reporter she was laid off as part of massive cutbacks at the paper.

Thomas joined United Press International in 1943 and reported on women's topics for their radio wire service. Later in the decade, and in the early fifties, she wrote their "Names in the News" column, for which she interviewed numerous Washington celebrities. After 1955, she covered federal agencies such as the Department of Justicemarker, Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Thomas served as president of the Women's National Press Club from 1959–60.

Presidential correspondent

In November 1960, Thomas began covering then President-elect John F. Kennedy, following him to the White Housemarker in January 1961 as a UPI correspondent. Thomas became known as the "Sitting Buddha", and it was during Kennedy's administration that she began the tradition of ending all presidential press conferences with a signature "Thank you, Mr. President".

Thomas was the only female print journalist to travel with President Richard Nixon to Chinamarker during his historic trip in 1972. She has traveled around the world several times with Presidents Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and has covered every Economic Summit since 1975, working up to the position of UPI's White House Bureau Chief, a post she would hold for over 25 years. While serving as White House Bureau Chief, she authored a regular column for UPI, "Backstairs at the White House," which provided an insider's view of various presidential administrations.

In 2009, she has been critical of President Obama's Administration concerning attempts to control the public media.

Resignation from United Press International

On May 17, 2000, after 57 years with the organization, Thomas resigned from UPI the day after the announcement of its acquisition by News World Communications Inc., a company founded and controlled by Unification Church leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon. She later described the change in ownership as "a bridge too far".

Less than two months later, she joined Hearst Newspapers as a columnist, writing on national affairs and the White Housemarker.


  • Listen Up Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do. (with co-author Craig Crawford) (Charles Scribner's Sons, 2009) ISBN 1-4391-4815-5
  • Watchdogs of Democracy? : The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public (Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006) ISBN 0-7432-6781-8
  • Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President : Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House (Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003) ISBN 0-7432-0226-0
  • Front Row at the White House : My Life and Times (Scribner, 2000) ISBN 0-684-86809-1
  • Dateline: White House (Macmillan, 1975) ISBN 0-02-617620-3


  1. Contemporary Heroes and Heroines. Vol. 3. Gale Research, 1998; Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 19. Gale Group, 1999; Current Biography, H.W. Wilson Co., 1993.
  2. Helen Thomas, Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times, Scribner, 2000, page 17.
  3. Helen Thomas, Dateline: White House. Macmillan, 1975, page xiii.

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