Ari versus Helen
Howard Kurtz and Dana Milbank both write up the end of Helen Thomas's career today, and both have an angle that was not obvious in the strange weekend news cycle that doomed her. It was the role of former White House spokesman, now sports marketing consultant, Ari Fleischer. Kurtz:
Ari Fleischer, who was Bush's first press secretary, led the campaign for her ouster over the weekend, e-mailing journalists who might have missed her remarks.
[I]t's not surprising that one of the first to push Thomas out the door was Bush's former press secretary, Ari "Watch What They Say" Fleischer, who temporarily left his sports marketing business to hustle over to the Fox News set and demand Thomas's firing.
I'm told that Fleischer emailed numerous journalists about the video of Thomas talking about Israel, and gave quotes to anyone who asked -- a simple gesture that poured rocket fuel on the story. This is the point I was making yesterday -- Thomas had been making conservatives, especially pro-Israel conservatives, angry for years. A lot of the trouble went back to her 2000 resignation from the collapsing UPI and hiring by Hearst Newspapers. Thomas's seat in the front row came because she worked for UPI; out of generosity and respect, she was allowed to keep it even as she lobbed opinionated questions, often from the left on foreign policy. She spent eight of her years as a columnist irritating the Bush administration and supporters of Israel. That built up the reservoir of ill feeling that led, over the weekend, to an effort to oust Thomas. Fleischer's role in that campaign -- acting as countless conservatives would have wanted him to act -- should not come as a surprise.
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press