Helen Thomas, a pioneer for women in journalism who covered politics at the White House for over five decades, has died at the age of 92.
Ms Thomas’s career spanned the tenure of nine different US presidents, and she was the first female member – and later leader – of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
She made her name as a determined and forthright reporter for United Press International, and was not afraid to share her opinions. Her career in journalism ended in 2010 after controversial remarks she made about Israeli Jews to a rabbi, according to Politico.
Ms Thomas had been ill for some time, and was in and out of hospital up until she returned home on Thursday. Her friend, Muriel Dobbin, said she died in her apartment in Washington on Saturday morning.
Despite her intimidating interviewing style, with one White House press secretary describing her questioning as “torture”, Ms Thomas was a popular cultural talking point across the United States, and was even featured in an episode of The Simpsons in 2000.
And she was regularly deferred to during busy televised press conferences, often signalling the end of questions by saying: “Thank you, Mr President.”
Tributes for Ms Thomas poured in on Twitter. CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller (@markknoller) posted: “Helen defined what it was to be a WH correspondent: unbowed and relentless in pursuit of news and information.”
A former press secretary to George W Bush, Dana Perino, said: “Rest in peace, Helen Thomas. First day I ever took the podium she came to encourage me.”
And another White House correspondent, April Ryan, wrote: “Helen Thomas helped break ground for women covering the White House. She said “men talk to men”. She helped change that dynamic.”