After grilling Bush, Helen Thomas gets thousands of flowers
By Albert Eisele
March 31, 2006
The roses kept coming - and coming - and coming - to the Hearst Newspapers office in
downtown Washington on Thursday, until they filled a large conference room to overflowing.
By the time the Federal Express delivery was complete, there were 108 dozen roses, nearly 1,300
in every color. They were the result of an e-mail campaign to show support for Hearst columnist
Helen Thomas after she grilled President Bush about his Iraq policy at last week's White House
The campaign was the brainchild of Clarity Sanderson, a 31-year-old Democratic activist from
Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, who was motivated by the sharp exchange between
Thomas and Bush, and by an op-ed article Thomas wrote about the exchange in the Salt Lake
"Those two things set me off," Sanderson said in a telephone interview Friday.
Sanderson, a work-at-home web designer and mother of two who is co-chairwoman of the Utah
Democratic Progressive Caucus, said she saw a note on the website democraticunderground.com
suggesting that people e-mail Thomas to thank her for asking Bush "the questions all Americans
want answered about Iraq."
"I thought, 'Let's take it a step farther," she said, and sent an e-mail asking people to donate to
her Pay Pal account to send roses to Thomas.
That was last Friday. By Monday she'd received more than $2,200. She ordered the roses and
100 glass vases from an online floral service in San Francisco, Organic Bouquet, and they were
Thomas, the 85-year-old veteran White House journalist whose outspoken criticism of the Bush
administration has drawn much hate mail from Bush supporters in recent years, said Friday
that she was overwhelmed by the avalanche of roses.
"It sure beats the brickbats," she said, referring to hundreds of vitriolic e-mails she's received
since last week's encounter with Bush. "Some of them attack you ad hominem and call you a
traitor and ask if you've ever been to Iraq," she said. "I think it's the frustration of those who are
angry with me and take it out in e-mail. I think there should be a logical debate, but maybe
that's not possible during an ongoing war."
Thomas shared her roses with Hearst bureau chief Chuck Lewis and other colleagues and sent
the bulk of them to wounded military personnel at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Asked about Bush's response to her pointed question about his Iraq policy, she said, "He could
not answer my question. He kept referring to Afghanistan. He never articulated the reasons
we're in Iraq. I don't think there's any justification for an unprovoked war against somebody
who did nothing against us."
Thomas had received hundreds of supportive e-mails by Friday afternoon, bearing such
messages as, "O-M_G… I LOVE THAT LADY!" "We all owe her so much more than roses," "Her
little finger has more class than George Bush does," and "Helen Thomas kick ass!"
Sanderson said she's never spoken with Thomas but received an e-mail from her via Hearst
office manager Kristen Collie, who wrote that "Helen asked me to send you the following note:"
"Blessed are the peacemakers. The bounty of beautiful roses from such wonderful people has
lifted my heart and will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. Thank you for caring that
others may live."
Thomas, who is of Lebanese extraction, has never visited Iraq but she said, "I don't think I have
to. I've been to the Middle East with many presidents. I think the whole situation is very sad,
and they said it was going to be a cakewalk."
Thomas, who was inundated with hate mail last year when she was quoted in The Hill as saying
she'd kill herself if Vice President Cheney ran for president in 2008, said she didn't talk to
Cheney when they both attended the recent Gridiron Club dinner in Washington.
"I don't think he'll ever want to talk to me," she said.