Evan Thomas is the Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek magazine. Since 1992 he also has been a panelist on the weekly syndicated public affairs TV show Inside Washington.
Thomas was born in April 1951 in Huntington, New York and grew up in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. His father, Evan Thomas II, was an executive with the book publishing house Scribner’s. His grandfather was Norman Thomas (1884-1968), disciple and successor to Eugene V. Debs, founder of America’s Socialist Party. Norman Thomas was the Socialist Party candidate in six presidential elections from 1928 through 1948.
Evan Thomas was schooled at the elite Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, graduating in 1969. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1973 and a Juris Doctorate at the University of Virginia Law School four years after that.
In 1977 Thomas was hired by Time magazine, where for the next nine years he worked as a correspondent, writer and editor. In 1986 he and Time National Editor Walter Isaacson co-wrote The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made, a book about Averell Harriman, Dean Acheson, George Kennan, and others who had shaped U.S. foreign policy after World War II.
In 1986 Thomas left Time to become head of Newsweek‘s Washington bureau, a position he would hold until 1996. Since then, he has done long investigative pieces for _Newsweek._His coverage of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal won a National Magazine Award in 1998.
During the 2003-04 presidential campaign season, Thomas oversaw the work of a team of Newsweek reporters who were given insider access to the campaigns of candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry — on the condition that those reporters would refrain from writing about what they observed until after the November 2004 election.
In Thomas’ team reporting (which would be published in the November 15, 2004 edition of Newsweek — well after the election), Kerry was described as “cranky,” petulant, “flummoxed,” unfocused, “brooding,” insensitive, politically tone-deaf, “dithering,” adrift, “too cautious,” “too set in his ways,” and “indecisive” but willing to “do anything to win.”
In the July 11, 2004 edition of Inside Washington, Thomas, who along with his inside reporters was daily seeing a very flawed John Kerry (who scarcely resembled the positive image generally depicted in the media), stated the following:
“Let’s talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, want Kerry to win. And I think they’re going to portray Kerry and running mate [John] Edwards … as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all, there’s going to be this glow about them that is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them, that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.”
Liberal colleagues publicly excoriated Thomas for his comments.
On October 17, 2004, Thomas came close to recanting. Grilled by media reporter Howard Kurtz, Thomas backed away from his earlier statement. “Stupid thing to say,” he told Kurtz. “It was completely wrong. But I do think that … the mainstream press favors Kerry. I don’t think it’s worth 15 points. That was just a stupid thing to say.”
“Is it worth five points?” asked Kurtz. “Maybe,” Thomas replied. “Maybe.”
“But do you believe that most reporters want John Kerry to win?” Kurtz asked. “Yeah,” replied Thomas. “Absolutely.”
“Do you think they’re deliberately tilting their coverage to help John Kerry and John Edwards?” asked Kurtz. “Not really,” answered Thomas.
“Subconsciously tilting their coverage?” Kurtz probed. “Maybe,” said Thomas. “Maybe?” asked Kurtz. “Maybe,” affirmed Thomas.
“Including in Newsweek?” asked Kurtz. “Yeah,” replied the Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor.
Thomas is both a journalist and a historian. Books he has written, all published by Simon & Schuster, include: The Man to See: Edward Bennett Williams, the Ultimate Insider (1991); Legendary Trial Lawyer (1991); The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared (1995); The Early Years of the CIA (1995); Robert Kennedy: His Life (2000); and John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy (2003). In 1997 Thomas co-authored (with other Newsweek colleagues) the book Back from the Dead: How Clinton Survived the Republican Revolution.