The HBO doc about journalism legend Helen Thomas, Thank you, Mr. President, is now slated for is first airing next Monday. My colleague at E&P, Joe Strupp, interviewed the director, Rory Kennedy, today and has a full report at our site, see link below.
Here are a few highlights:
-- It opens with this: "When Rory Kennedy told her mother, Ethel Kennedy, that she was going to make a documentary about Helen Thomas, the former Mrs. Robert Kennedy responded, 'Do you really want to do that? She was awfully hard on Jack.'"
Eventually, though, her mother understood what the veteran documentary-maker with the famous name wanted to do, even allowing her to interview Thomas at her famed Hickory Hill home in McLean, Va., over five days in the spring of 2007.
-- "She has a compelling personal story, she was very determined to be a journalist at a young age," Kennedy says. "I think it is also the story of the role of journalism in America and the role of journalism in a democracy."
--The film takes square aim at Helen Thomas' latest battles with President George W. Bush, opening with a press conference in which Thomas asked Bush why he wanted to go to war.
"Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis," Thomas says in the clip. "Every reason given has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war?"
A question Bush deflected, claiming he did not want to got to war. "After that, I became persona non grata," she says in the opening piece of the interview with Kennedy. "There is a blackout now, I believe, until the end of his term."
Kennedy admits part of the film's effort is to show how Thomas's direct questioning and tireless investigation is being lost in today's White House press, particularly in the run up to the Iraq War.
"Has the media been asking the hard questions?" Kennedy says. "I do share her analysis of what happened in the lead-up to the war, the press did not do their job adequately. The press has changed over the past 30 years. Helen has remained true to her craft, despite the shift."
--Kennedy did ask Thomas if she ever used her sexuality in the job. Thomas' answer: "I never had the potential ... nobody made a pass at me, darn it!"