Although it just happened Monday, it seems like ages since Helen Thomas abruptly retired following a firestorm over comments she made about the Middle East. While speculation began immediately over who would end up in Helen’s front row center seat in the briefing room, a clear consensus among White House reporters has taken shape: looks like Fox News’ Major Garrett might be the big winner.
Today’s briefing was the first since she retired, and before Gibbs came out, a photographer took a shot of Helen’s empty seat, eliciting a sincere chorus of “Awwww” from the assembled press corps. Considering the radioactivity of her comments, that might be all the tribute she ends up getting.
The background buzz among White House reporters is overwhelmingly that Fox News will get the seat, although it’s the White House Correspondents Association board who will decide.
In any case, the move to the front row would not make much practical difference to Fox’s White House reporters, Major Garrett and Wendell Goler. In terms of access and availability, there’s no appreciable difference. The ripple effect to the later rows will be the real prize. Moving to the 3rd row means going from maybe getting one question in, to definitely getting two or three.
There’s also a sense among most, now, that Helen probably should have retired several years ago. While that would mean I’d never have met her, perhaps that would have been best in the big picture.
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