Anne Schroeder at The Politico started a new rumor that when the newly renovated White House Briefing Room is ready, perhaps the new seating chart will move caterwauling Hearst columnist Helen Thomas (no longer a reporter, more like a Sheehan-style anti-war protester) out of her traditional seat on the front row. For those who do not recall, Helen left United Press International way back in 2000 rather than work for new owners when it was sold to conservatives at The Washington Times.
The new room will have an added seat in each row, but both CNN and Fox News want to move up, so moving Helen would be the logical move to acknowledge that cable-news networks perhaps have more importance 24-7 than once-a-week columnists for Hearst. (Back when I was in the room in '01 and '02, FNC was often sitting in row 3 or 4, not even the second row.)
Schroeder joked that removing the "irascible administration critic" would solve the dilemma, but it's going to be the reporters, not the Bush team, deciding on the musical chairs:
"If you do the math, that's certainly one scenario, but you never know, one network may want to stay in the second row," explained White House Correspondents' Association Prez Steve Scully, adding, "I can tell you categorically no decisions have been made."
Scully said the topic will be discussed during the next White House Correspondents' Association board meeting, which will take place before Bush leaves for South America in March.
He laughed off rumors that he's buckling under pressure from the Bush administration -- again. (Weeks earlier, the affable and popular Scully picked the ever-benign Rich Little to be the entertainer at the association's annual dinner in April, drawing groans from journos everywhere.) "She's the dean of the White House press corps, as far as I'm concerned; we'll make sure she'll get what she needs."
For all her concern about political pressure, perhaps Schroeder could buy herself an "I Love Helen Thomas" T-shirt and wear it down to the White House gate and protest.