The Washington Times - July 20, 2013, 01:25PM

President Obama said Saturday that he and first lady Michelle Obama were “saddened” to learn of the death of former White House correspondent Helen Thomas, calling her a groundbreaking journalist.

“Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism,” Mr. 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.”

SEE RELATED: Helen Thomas, pioneer journalist, dies at 92

He said she earned the informal title of “dean of the White House press corps” not just for the length of her service, but for “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,” he said.

Ms. Thomas was 92. Her career ended in 2010 after she commented on videotape that Israelis should “get out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany, Poland or the United States. The remark brought widespread condemnation.

White House Correspondents Association Steve Thomma said Saturday that Ms. Thomas was a “trailblazer.” She was the first female president of the group, in 1975-76.

“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,” Mr. Thomma said.