White House journalist Helen Thomas
Helen Thomas, the longtime dean of the White House press corps who covered US presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, died Saturday. She was 92.
Thomas "died Saturday morning at her Washington apartment after a long illness. She would have been 93 next month," the Gridiron Club said.
Thomas was a former president and first female member of the club, a Washington journalistic institution.
From her front row seat in the White House press room, Thomas was a formidable, sharp-tongued inquisitor of every US president she covered.
She was such a fixture, she had the unique privilege of a front row seat with her own name on it.
Thomas' passing triggered a torrent of tributes, including one from Obama.
"Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism," he said in a statement.
"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."
Thomas began covering the White House for United Press International in the early 1960s, one of only a few women in a male-dominated Washington press corps.
The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she had a strong interest in the Middle East and was a fierce defender of Palestinian rights.
Her blunt, fearless style made her famous but tripped her up in 2010 when controversial remarks about Israel led to her resignation from a post that she dominated for decades.
Thomas ran into trouble when an interviewer from the website rabbilive.com asked her what she thought about Israel.
"Get the hell out of Palestine," she responded. Jews, she said, should "go home, to Poland and Germany, America and everywhere else." She later apologised.