After video surfaced this weekend of Hearst Newspaper's White House correspondent Helen Thomas saying that Jews should stop occupying Palestine, the venerable journalist has announced her retirement. This is a travesty that all LGBT people - whether you support Palestine or Israel in the conflict - should be outraged over.
Helen Thomas has been a staple of White House reporting for decades. She is a journalist in every sense of the word, but she's also more than that. She's a columnist. Some folks think that since she's a columnist who can editorialize, she shouldn't be in the White House press briefing room at all.
This is utter bullshit. Helen is entitled to her own opinions as are all journalists. Her prior reporting is what should be judged - and not a candid YouTube video that ends with the creator's own opinions (of course contrary to Helen's!).
Whatever your thoughts are on the conflict, let's leave those aside for this thread. We're not going to solve any problems and we won't be able to create peace in the Middle East via a blog post on Bilerico Project. Instead, let's focus on how this precedent can affect LGBT journalists who report on our issues.
The Advocate reporter, Kerry Eleveld, has access to the briefing room but also writes a weekly opinion column for the magazine. Should she be banned from covering the White House? Of course not.
When we start putting muzzles on the press - and I'm not talking about government censorship as much as peer pressure to conform to the current popular opinion - we're going down a very slippery slope. Opinion columnists have had just as much of an influence on American politics as journalists. Benjamin Franklin, often touted as the founder of American journalism, wrote more opinion pieces than news reports; in fact he was closer to a blogger than anything else.
While it's always important to get the unvarnished truth, it's also important that those who have access to power be allowed to express their own views on how that power is being used. The right to free speech and a free press are two of the bedrock principles of our country; without them we'd have sunk into the sands of history already.
No matter how popular or unpopular Helen's view might be to a certain segment, censoring her or dunning her into resigning is simply abhorrent. When we start judging journalists based on their ideology or personal opinions, we're going down a dangerous route for LGBT reporters.
Queer issues have never been the most popular. The Democrats and the Republicans often fuck us over and need to be held accountable. While it's possible to do so with "only the facts, ma'am," it's also incredibly important that we hear the views of those with access.
Those of us stuck in flyover country don't have access to the halls of Washington. Washington politics has become especially talented at allowing the "facts" to belie the truth; while the facts may say one thing, we need to know the backstory and the why that's so often left out.
And when we start taking away the ability of journalists and columnists to share their thoughts with the public, we've effectively muzzled our own watchdogs.