This afternoon, the WHCA issued a statement to disassociate itself from Helen Thomas‘ controversial comments saying, “While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter.”
However, with news of Thomas’ immediate retirement, sources tell FishbowlDC that the WHCA board’s attention has turned to filling her front-row seat in the briefing room. The board has scheduled a meeting for Thursday to discuss the dean’s vacant chair.
Those close to the matter suggest that Fox News may be the most likely candidate to inherit Thomas’ seat as the other networks are already positioned in the front row.
See the entire statement issued by the WHCA board after the jump.
Statement Issued By the Board of the White House Correspondents Association June 7, 2010
Helen Thomas’ comments were indefensible and the White House Correspondents Association board firmly dissociates itself from them. Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trail blazer on the White House beat.
While Helen has not been a member of the WHCA for many years, her special status in the briefing room has helped solidify her as the dean of the White House press corps so we feel the need to speak out strongly on this matter.
We want to emphasize that the role of the WHCA is to represent the White House press corps in its dealings with the White House on coverage-related issues. We do not police the speech of our members or colleagues. We are not involved at all in issuing White House credentials, that is the purview of the White House itself.
But the incident does revive the issue of whether it is appropriate for an opinion columnist to have a front row seat in the WH briefing room. That is an issue under the jurisdiction of this board. We are actively seeking input from our association members on this important matter, and we have scheduled a special meeting of the WHCA board on Thursday to decide on the seating issue.