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Detroit’s own White House press corps luminary, Helen Thomas, 82, has apparently landed on the presidential shit list after telling a California newspaper in January that George Bush the younger “is the worst president in all of American history.” For the first time in memory, Thomas was relegated to the third row and wasn’t called on for a question during last week’s nationally televised presidential news conference.

For more than 40 years, Thomas — universally recognized by her red hair and bulldog-tough questions — opened White House news conferences with the first question and ended the events with, “Thank you, Mr. President.” The former United Press International correspondent was always allowed to at least ask a question. Not last week, as Bush called from a scripted, made-for-TV list of reporters. We can only guess that Junior is upset over — or scared of — Thomas’ constant ribbing and ridicule. During recent speaking engagements and in her new capacity as a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers, Thomas has described Bush as an imperialist who, by his proposed action in Iraq, would justify Pearl Harbor and forget the lessons of Vietnam. She says the media, Congress and the public are acting in disgusting obeisance.

Thomas grew up in Detroit and graduated from Wayne State. She joined United Press International in 1943, broke barriers for women in media and has covered every president since John F. Kennedy. She quit UPI in 2000 when the conservative Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church bought the struggling wire service. Since then, Thomas the columnist has been on a rampage against Bush. During a January Q&A with presidential flack Ari Fleischer, she peppered him with questions, probing, “Why does [the President] want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?” and “Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?” When Fleischer said the president wants a regime change, Thomas countered, “That’s a decision for them [the Iraqis] to make, isn’t it?” Fleischer responded, “Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don’t think that has been what history has shown.” And she said, “I think many countries don’t have — people don’t have the decision — including us.”

Give ’em hell, Helen.

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