The Day I Didn't Meet Helen Thomas

That guy in the background probably didn't meet Helen Thomas either. I was pregnant. What's his excuse?

Poor Helen Thomas. She’s really in it up to her neck, isn’t she? She said something anti-Semitic and even though it was obviously the confused rantings of a 125-year-old woman, it still didn’t come out very good. It caused her to quit her job, one she’s had since Kennedy was president. We’re talking about a major “I-can’t-believe-I-said-that-on-camera” moment, when it ends a career that began when Jackie was wearing the pink pillbox hat.

I'm very sad reading about Helen Thomas’ gaffe. Once, when I was on a freelance writing assignment at the White House, I didn’t meet Helen Thomas and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

I was pregnant with my second son and because I took all of my pregnancies to the limit on weight gain, I was about as big as a Jersey cow. We had recently moved from Cleveland to D.C. and I had left my job as an editor at Sun Newspapers, where I was more important than I’ve ever been before or since. I quit my job because we were moving to a new city, but I was going back to work. As soon as the baby’s born, I was going to get a job. That’s right, straight back to work. Just you watch me . . .

So in the meantime, my old employer asked if I would write about people and things going on in Washington that had a Cleveland connection. There was a surprising number of Cleveland people who had high profile and super cool jobs in D.C., including some guy from one of the east side Cleveland suburbs who worked in the West Wing of the White House.

I set up an interview with him and was pretty excited about going to the White House “for work.” It actually made that editor’s job look pretty lame. I drove into the city, parked my car and took a taxi to the back entrance to the White House. There was a guard at the gate and I told him my name and that I was a reporter - a reporter going into the White House to interview a White House guy. Yeah, that’s right.

The guard led me to a little guard house right inside the gate. There were a couple steps leading up into it. Inside it was like a little cottage for soldiers with guns. Two guards were in there and they took my purse, my briefcase and my camera bag and set them on a little kitchen table and emptied everything out of them, looked through everything. They patted me down, making sure that instead of a fetus I wasn’t carrying a medium-sized arsenal under there.

The search took some time, but I was pretty into it. It seemed to me being thoroughly searched was part of the White House experience. While I was standing there at the kitchen table, someone just breezed through - no searching, not even a second look, obviously someone who came in and out of the White House every day. She said, “Good morning.”  And one of the guards said, “Good morning, Miss Thomas.”

That’s when I knew it was Helen Thomas who had just walked past me and the contents of my purse. I caught a quick glimpse of the back of her.

I had admired Helen Thomas for so, so long. She had been a Washington press corp reporter since 1961. By the time I didn’t meet her in the guard house, she had covered seven presidents. She was way more important than the stupid Cleveland guy who I was going to interview.

I wasn’t so into the search anymore. I wanted them to hurry up and finish so I could catch up with Helen Thomas and shake her hand. The guards were carefully putting back everything into my bags. “Just stick it in there,” I impatiently told the guard who was putting a lens back in my camera bag with more care than the doctor would hold my just-born baby about a month later.

By the time I grabbed all of my stuff, Helen Thomas was way down the walk. I quickly made the decision not to run after her. I was afraid my protruding stomach, swollen legs, and all the bags I was carrying would startle Helen, or worse yet, startle the guards.

I was afraid of something like this:

Pregnant Cleveland Reporter Shot at White House;
Tried to Overtake Helen Thomas, Police Say

Not exactly the way I was hoping to get my name in the paper.

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