Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales heaped loads of praise on Helen Thomas even as he lamented that documentarian Rory Kennedy will present HBO viewers tonight with"A Story With a Few Holes." Shales found it disappointing that Thomas's affinity for Israel's enemies was left untouched in Kennedy's "Thank You, Mr. President."
Shales started by insisting that "[o]ne can't help wondering if the film was shortened in the final edit to obscure a blemish or two on Thomas's celebrated career-- the documentary equivalent of cosmetic surgery." [Keep it civil, comments thread!]
Even so, Shales himself gussied up "Hell No" Helen in his review, insisting she's a reporter who "can't be accused of party partisanship" and who was "brave enough to chastise fellow journalists -- for supporting the Iraq war in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and abetting what she considers the right-wing persecution of Bill Clinton." Nah, the Hearst columnist sure doesn't sound like a left-wing partisan hack to me.
But on to Shales's quibble with Kennedy's "Thank You, Mr. President." The Post critic laments that Thomas's anti-Israel (and quite possibly anti-Semitic) biases were completely ignored by Kennedy:
What's disappointing about Thomas, and troubling about the film, is her stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies. Other than a passing reference to Thomas's parents as having been Syrian immigrants, the film never hints at Thomas's anti-Israeli rhetoric. In her writings, she's already dismissed both John McCain and Barack Obama as being friendly to Israel and hostile to the Palestinians, "so the Israelis have no worries about the November election."
Especially during the current administration, her "questions" at press briefings have been more like tirades, on one occasion prompting Tony Snow, the late journalist who was then press secretary, to respond, "Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view." This would have been a pertinent and amusing clip to include in the film. Not for nothing was Thomas recently hailed as "the epitome of journalistic integrity for over 57 years" -- by the Arab American News.
When controversies are a large part of a person's career, it's reasonable to expect even an adulatory documentary at least to mention them. "Thank You, Mr. President" could easily have included both sides -- Thomas attacked and Thomas defended. Even attacking the attackers would have been more honest than ignoring the matter altogether.