WASHINGTON — Legendary presidential correspondent Helen Thomas’s contentious relationship with the Obama Administration continued even in death today, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spent most of Thomas’s wake deflecting benign questions and searching nervously for the door.
Asked to describe his fondest memory of Ms. Thomas, Carney—who has served as President Obama’s Press Secretary since 2011—said he “didn’t have all the information in front of [him] right now,” but promised to “look into” the situation and report back “as soon as no one remembers the question.”
“I can tell you that the meeting was very productive and that I’ll be ready to give you more on that topic soon,” Carney said when asked by a friend what he had eaten for lunch. “This is obviously a dynamic situation and we’re not prepared to comment on it yet.”
Thomas—who covered every presidential administration since Dwight Eisenhower and was considered a pioneer for women in journalism—died on Saturday at the age of 92. Thomas was known as a tenacious but playful reporter who wasn’t afraid to ask impolitic questions. President Obama said that she “never failed to keep presidents—including myself—on their toes.” Thomas’s storied carried ended on a sour note when she was forced to resign her position after making what some called inflammatory comments about Israel’s presence in the Middle East, but her peers are nonetheless calling her a “trail-blazer” who changed the White House Press Corps forever.
“It’s a sad moment,” Carney said before sneaking out a side door. “But I’m not going to get into the details of what I mean by ‘sad’ or ‘moment.’”
Carney admitted that he “couldn’t quite believe that [Mrs. Thomas] is really gone,” and said that he was looking forward to finally getting a good night’s rest once he “personally witnesses the body being lowered into the ground—just to be absolutely sure I’m off the hook.”