Helen Thomas probes White House on torture; online community sends flowers

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Friday, April 25, 2008

President George W. Bush conveys birthday wishes in 2006 to reporter Helen Thomas in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
Image: White House photo by Eric Draper.

On Wednesday, long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas questioned White House Press Secretary Dana Perino bluntly and repeatedly about United States President George W. Bush's recent confirmation that he had approved CIA interrogation policies that included waterboarding.

"Where is everybody?" asked Thomas, apparently frustrated with lack of attention her colleagues had given the issue. The community at the social news site reddit answered "Here we are"; a message they plan to deliver along with several thousand dollars in flowers and other gifts.

Thomas's questions became front-page news on reddit this morning, via a Think Progress blog post that includes a C-SPAN 2 video clip of Thomas during yesterday's press briefing. Noting the president's repeated assertion that the U.S. does not torture, Thomas characterized the authorized interrogation techniques as torture.

"Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it," said Thomas, "so how do you reconcile this credibility gap?"

Perino reiterated that the "United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror."

Cquote1.svg That's not my question. My question is, why did he say publicly 'we do not torture', when he really did know that we do? Cquote2.svg

Helen Thomas

Whether waterboarding, among other techniques, should be categorized as torture has been a subject of political contention in recent months. Thomas was unequivocal, responding to Perino: "That's not my question. My question is, why did he say publicly 'we do not torture', when he really did know that we do?"

In appreciation of the reporter asking "A REAL QUESTION" (as the headline put it), reddit users (known as "redditors") have collected over $3,000 for the purchase of flowers, edible arrangements and other gifts. Several 'redditors' also claimed to have ordered flowers for Thomas independently.

The bulk of the money was collected through Chipin.com, on a donation page created Micah Fitch, a musician and graphic designer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As of publication, the site registered 400 contributors for a total of $3,125. Fitch also created a wiki, FlowersWiki, for organizing the gift purchases and selecting messages to go with them. A large delivery to the Washington D.C. offices of Thomas's employer Hearst Newspapers is being scheduled for Friday morning.

One redditor claims that a friend who works for The Daily Show is pitching the story to the show's staff.

This is not the first time Thomas has received a high-volume flower gift. In 2006, an e-mail campaign that began on the political website Democratic Underground collected over $2000 and resulted in delivery of 108 dozen roses.


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