Holden, they’re being mean to Helen. Make them stop.

Two veterans of the White House beat — NBC’s David Gregory and CNN’s John King (himself a former AP reporter) — disagree with Thomas’ assessment of how the press corps did during the buildup to the war. But both emphasize the respect they have for Thomas, 85, who has covered every president since Kennedy.

“I just don’t buy it, but I say this carefully because Helen is a god in our business, a pioneer,” says King, a longtime White House reporter who is now a national correspondent for CNN.

“Were we at fault sometimes and less than perfect? Absolutely. Lapdogs? No.”

Gregory, calling from the White House, says that how the media covered the war is a topic that “is going to be chewed on a great deal over time,” and it is one that he takes very seriously. Though those on the right criticize him and other reporters for being too hard on Bush at a time of war, those on the left say they’re too soft.

“So I get it from both sides, but I don’t feel I held back in the least, or left questions unasked,” Gregory says. “I just don’t agree with the notion that we went easy.”

First of all, Gregory, Jesus. So you get criticism from “both sides,” and that means none of it’s valid? Squirrel nut.

Second, John King? Would that be this John King?

We were told — we didn’t see the president — one of the most interesting things is we did not get to photograph the president getting on Air Force One, off Air Force One, on or off any of those helicopters, because they moved him so quickly. They didn’t want us to get any pictures of that. We were told that he had body armor on. He doesn’t like it. I can tell you that from personal conversations with him in the past.

Via Romenesko.