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Interview With Bill O'Reilly of Fox News

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
July 12, 2008

MR. O’REILLY: Hi, I’m Bill O’Reilly. Thank you for watching this special edition of The Factor honoring the life of our friend and colleague, Tony Snow. Tonight’s broadcast will just focus on the man – who he was, what he did. On Monday’s Factor we’ll get into his political philosophy and his service to the country.

Now early this morning, Tony died from cancer at Georgetown hospital in Washington, DC. I knew he was very ill, and I knew he didn’t want a lot of publicity about it. Which is why for the past couple of months, we didn’t mention much about Tony.

Tony Snow was born in Berea, Kentucky on June 1, 1955. He was raised in Cincinnati. His father was a high school teacher, his mother a nurse. She died in 1973 when Tony was 17 years old from the same insidious cancer that Tony had. After graduating from Davidson College in 1977, Tony Snow began a newspaper career. As with most everything else in his life, he succeeded, rising up to become a syndicated columnist and national media commentator. In 1991, Tony took a sabbatical from journalism to write speeches for President Bush the elder. He worked in the White House for two years. In 1996, I first met Tony Snow because he was hired as the host of Fox News Sunday. At first we sparred on the air, but we shared a traditional point of view and a sense of how absurd life can be.

As many of you know, Tony succeeded here at Fox News in a big way, and then in 2006 he reentered the political world as the Press Secretary for President Bush. It was interesting – I talked with him before he made the decision, and I was actually mocking him for getting back into politics, a career we were both very skeptical about. But he said this: there’s no better way to learn about the world and what really happens in it, then traveling with the President of the United States. That was Tony – cut to the chase. He was smart to take the job.

Again, Tony succeeded greatly at the White House, although he was often under siege. On Monday we’ll get into some of the situations Tony had to deal with. But for tonight, I can tell you that Tony Snow never misled me when I asked him a direct question, no matter how tough the question was. If he couldn‘t tell me something, he told me why. Even most liberal democrats admired how Tony handled the White House media. He was one of President Bush’s best hires.

Tony Snow converted to Catholicism. He and his wife, Jill, had three children, Kendall, 16, Robert, 12, and Kristen, 11. I can tell you those kids are bright, respectful, and will do great things for this country. Just wait and see.

This evening we will talk to a number of people who knew Tony Snow very well. They will share some of their private moments with him. For me, Tony Snow was a great man, a patriot, an American to be admired. We will miss him tremendously and our prayers are with his family tonight.

Joining us now on the phone from Washington – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Madame Secretary, when did you meet Tony, and how did your friendship evolve?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I first met Tony as one of the White House folks around George H. W. Bush. We were a part of the group that was – that supported that administration and that saw great things happen in the world, and that’s when I first met Tony. But it was over the years that our friendship evolved. And of course when I came back to Washington, I got to know him again from Fox News. And he was a pretty tough interview for me, but I always loved being with him. And of course then when he came to the White House we spent a lot of time together, sometimes during pretty trying times.

MR. O’REILLY: When you say you spent a lot of time with Tony – people don’t know what goes on in the White House, and particularly between a Secretary of State and a White House Press Spokesperson. What did you guys talk about? How – what was the tenor of that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s very interesting. One that you might expect, Bill, and maybe one that you wouldn’t expect. The one that you would expect is that 2006 was a pretty rough year in Iraq, and it was a time when a lot of people were losing faith in our ability to win there. And I always found Tony somebody who believed that we were going to get it done, somebody who believed that we needed to get not just the truth out about the difficult and bad things that were happening – he believed in being unvarnished about that. But he also believed that there were good things happening and we spent a lot of time talking about that. And so that’s something that you might expect.

But maybe one thing you wouldn’t expect is that Tony was, as you mentioned, born in Kentucky, raised in Cincinnati, and we used to talk a lot about the state of race relations in America. And he wanted President George W. Bush to be known as somebody who cared about those issues because he knew that the President did. And so, believe it or not a lot of our discussions were about race relations.

MR. O’REILLY: When you have a discussion with a guy like Tony Snow, he – when I have a discussion with – when I talk with Tony, and I still can’t believe he’s gone – you know, I – because he –

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I know. He was a good friend of yours, Bill, and I know you’re hurting.

MR. O’REILLY: Yeah, that’s not important, though. But when I talked to Snow, I mean it was just – he would give me a little jazz, I would give him a little jazz – you know, it was like guy talk. And he was about the most regular guy you could possibly have. Was it more formal with you? Because –

SECRETARY RICE: No, no. Tony was easy to be around. You know, he was funny. He had a – you know, he had a really wicked sense of humor.

MR. O’REILLY: Yeah, he was a riot.

SECRETARY RICE: And he could just be very funny. And it was great traveling with him. You know, during the years I – when you on the road, there are long hours and long plane rides. And Tony was always fun to be around. No, it wasn’t formal at all. He was down to earth.

MR. O’REILLY: I never saw the guy – even in the throes of this awful illness, I never saw him depressed. And he was always up – upbeat. And I said, well, you know, I don’t see him day to day that much. But the guy was just unbelievably optimistic.

SECRETARY RICE: He was an optimistic person. I think he – because he believed that if you could come from his – what he considered a modest background to rise to where he was in this great country, then why not be optimistic about what was possible? And that’s what I loved about him.

MR. O’REILLY: And you know, he was a guy who loved his country. It was an amazing relationship that he had with the United States of America. And –

SECRETARY RICE: He loved this country. He loved –

MR. O’REILLY: It was.

SECRETARY RICE: The fact that this was a country in which the son of middle-class people could end up the Press Secretary to the President of the United States. He believed in what we were trying to do. He believed in democracy, because he believed that all people ought to have the chance to do the kinds of things that he did. He really, really loved this country and it always came through.

MR. O’REILLY: Madame Secretary, thanks for taking the time this evening. We appreciate it very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Bill.

Released on July 13, 2008

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