Of Sunday morning news program hosts who interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on June 19, only ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Rice about the recently leaked Downing Street memo. The memo contains the recorded minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting of senior British cabinet officials and advisers and includes British intelligence chief Richard Dearlove's statement, based on meetings with U.S. officials in Washington, that President Bush was determined even then to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq "through military action" and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Though Chris Wallace, host of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, and CNN Late Edition host Wolf Blitzer also interviewed Rice on Iraq policy that day, neither brought up the memo, which had been the subject of informal hearings on Capitol Hill earlier in the week.
From the June 19 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, there's also been a lot of talk back here in the United States about these Downing Street memos, the minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the spring and summer of 2002 where they discussed their meetings with the United States. I want to show you what one mother, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier, had to say about that memo this week --
SHEEHAN (video clip): The so-called Downing Street memo, dated 23 July, 2002, only confirms what I already suspected. The leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond to Mrs. Sheehan?
RICE: Well, I can only say what the president has said many, many times. The United States of America and its coalition decided that it was finally time to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein. There had been multiple resolutions against Saddam Hussein and his activities -- everything from concerns about his weapons of mass destruction programs and his continued unwillingness to answer the legitimate questions of the international system about those programs, his having used weapons of mass destruction in the past, everything concerning the way that he treated his own people. After all, we found more than 300,000 people in mass graves.
You know, people are talking about, in the U.N. [United Nations] reform, a responsibility to protect [people]. We happen to think that the Security Council is the place that that discussion ought to take place. When you consider what the Iraqi people had gone through in the Saddam Hussein regime's reign, what about the responsibility to the Iraqi people?
We finally undertook an action that got rid of one of the worst dictators in modern times, sitting in the center of the world's most troubled region. And sitting here today in Jerusalem, I can tell you, George, that this region is far better for it, and we now really have a chance to build a different kind of Middle East with a different Iraq in the center of it, with potentially a Palestinian state that is democratic and with changes taking place all over this region that are democratizing, that will be more stabilizing and that will bring greater security to the American people. Saddam Hussein is gone, and that's a good thing.