Friends and colleagues say she died early Saturday, July 20, at her home in Washington. Thomas had been ill for a long time and in and out of the hospital before coming home Thursday, said friend Muriel Dobbin.
She made her name as a bulldog for United Press International in the great wire-service rivalries of old and as a pioneer for women in journalism.
She covered every U.S. commander-in-chief since President John F. Kennedy.
President Obama said on Saturday that Thomas opened doors and broke down barriers for generations of female journalists, all while keeping several presidents, including himself, “on their toes.”
Her refusal to conceal her strong opinions, even when posing questions to a president, and her public hostility toward Israel, caused discomfort among colleagues.
In 2010, that tendency ended a career that had started in 1943 and made her one of the best known journalists in Washington. On a videotape circulated on the Internet, she said Israelis should “get out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany, Poland or the United States. The remark brought down widespread condemnation and she resigned.
Helen Thomas worked for the United Press International wire service and Hearst newspapers. She ended dozens of presidential news conferences with the familiar phrase “Thank you, Mr. President.”
Thomas was accustomed to getting under the skin of presidents, if not to the cold shoulder.
“If you want to be loved,” she said years earlier, “go into something else.”
White House Correspondents Association President Steve Thomma called Thomas a “trailblazer in journalism.” She served as the first woman president of the association from 1975-1976.
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