Presidents don’t often comment on the deaths of reporters, but Helen Thomas wasn’t your typical reporter.
The first woman journalist to cover the president full-time, Thomas reported — aggressively — on ten chief executives, from John Kennedy to Barack Obama.
Thomas died Saturday at age 92.
“Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism,” President Obama said in a statement. “She covered every White House since President Kennedy’s, and during that time she never failed to keep presidents — myself included — on their toes.”
Obama also said:
“What made Helen the ‘Dean of the White House Press Corps’ was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account. Our thoughts are with Helen’s family, her friends, and the colleagues who respected her so deeply.”
Former President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton also issued a statement on Thomas:
“Helen was a pioneering journalist who, while adding more than her share of cracks to the glass ceiling, never failed to bring intensity and tenacity to her White House beat. Throughout her career she covered the issues and events that shaped the course of our world with perseverance and a tough-minded dedication.
“Her work was extraordinary because of her intelligence, her lively spirit and great sense of humor, and most importantly her commitment to the role of a strong press in a healthy democracy.”
Thomas also served as the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association, which issued a statement:
“Helen Thomas was a trailblazer in journalism and in the White House press corps, covering presidents from John F. Kennedy through Barack Obama.
“Starting with the Kennedy administration, she was the first woman to cover the president and not just the First Lady.
“At her urging in 1962, Kennedy said he would not attend the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association unless it was opened to women for the first time. It was.
“And in 1975-76, she served as the first woman president of the association.
“Women and men who’ve followed in the press corps all owe a debt of gratitude for the work Helen did and the doors she opened. All of our journalism is the better for it.”