Interview With Ted Olson

by Alan Colmes, Sean Hannity, and Brit Hume
Fox News - Hannity and Colmes
September 14, 2001



COLMES: Many of you remember Barbara Olson, who was a frequent guest on this program and a good friend. Ms. Olson was a passenger on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, and earlier today, Brit Hume spoke with her husband, Ted Olson.


BRIT HUME, FOX ANCHOR: Ted, your wife's name was the first victim's name that we heard from the crash at the Pentagon site. And I know that she spoke to you.

I'd like to convey, on behalf of all of us here, our condolences to you and our best wishes to you, sir.


I think some of your viewers know this, but Barbara was on your program and Tony Snow's program from time to time. And she was -- she loved to be with the people here at Fox. The people were very kind to her. And I very much appreciate that.

HUME: And we liked having her here.

I know that she called you while that plane that had taken off from Dulles was in the air. Could you describe those conversations?

OLSON: Yes. There were two conversations.

The plane took off at 8:10 in the morning -- or that's when it was scheduled to take off. And that's when I believe it took off. I had been in my office at the Department of Justice. Someone told me that there had been the two strikes that occurred at the World Trade Center. I turned on the television set in my office and watched, as I guess all of us did, this tragedy unfold at the World Trade Center.

One of the gals in my office came in and said, "Barbara's on the phone." And I picked up the phone. We spoke for a couple of -- maybe a minute or two before we were cut off.

HUME: Did you have a clear...

OLSON: It was clear.

It was cut off. And then a few moments later, we had another telephone conversation that lasted for three or four minutes. I was at first relieved to hear Barbara on the telephone, because panic strikes immediately. My wife had taken off on a plane. Two airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I, of course, like any other person, felt potentially devastated, panicky a little bit.

And I made a calculation that it couldn't possibly -- that airplane couldn't possibly have gotten to New York, although it could have been close. But then to hear her voice was reassuring and calming. But then her next words out of her mouth were that, "Ted, my plane's been hijacked."

HUME: Now, was she calm?

OLSON: She was very calm. She was completely in control.

HUME: Was she sort of whispering? Or was she speaking in a normal voice.

OLSON: No, she was speaking loud enough that I could hear her. I didn't feel that she was whispering. I said -- I asked her a couple of questions. And I'm not sure now the sequence in which I asked those questions.

But I learned from her that she had been in first class. She had been -- she and the other passengers had been herded to the back of the airplane. I asked her whether they, the hijackers, knew that she was calling. And she said, "No, they don't know."

She indicated that they had used knifes and box-cutters to take over the plane. At some point, we got cut off. I immediately called the command center of the Department of Justice to let them know that my wife was on a plane that had been hijacked. I mainly wanted them know there was another hijacked plane out there. I didn't know whether anyone in...

HUME: What did they say when you called them?

OLSON: They just absorbed the information. And they promised to send someone down right away. I didn't know that I was going to get another call. And I expected them to pass the information on to the appropriate people. I assumed that they did.

A few minutes later, another call came in from Barbara. I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you're calling collect.

HUME: With a collect call, right.

OLSON: Well, she managed to -- Barbara was capable of doing practically anything if she set her mind to it. In retrospect, I'm not surprised that Barbara managed to get collect calls through.

HUME: You don't know whether it was on a regular cell phone or one of those air phones?

OLSON: No, I don't. I first of all assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn't have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me.

HUME: Of course.

OLSON: So I think that was probably what it was. But Barbara got through a second time. And we exchanged the feelings that a husband and wife who are extraordinarily close, as we are, those kind of sentiments. And she assured me everything was going to be OK. I told her in the first conversation that the two hijacked planes had hit the World Trade Center.

And my impulse was that I had to tell her that. That was the kind of person she was. That's the kind of relationship that we had. I will always wonder whether I should have. But she -- her instinct was: "What do we do? What do we tell -- what shall I tell the pilot? What can I do?"

And I asked her where she was. And she tried to tell me where she was and what direction the aircraft appeared to be going.

HUME: It was probably hard to tell.

OLSON: I think it's impossible to tell. We've all looked out the window and we don't know exactly where we are. She said there were residences she could see. And she speculated that the aircraft was headed northeast. But I don't know whether that was correct or whether she really knew that or whether someone had told her that.

HUME: Did she describe the hijackers or say what they had said or anything of that kind?

OLSON: No. She -- the only thing she said with respect to that is the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked. She said it had been hijacked shortly after takeoff. By this time, the plane had been in the air -- again, I'm presuming that it took off on time -- for over an hour.

She implied that they had been circling around for a while. Not long after the second phone call, the connection was broken, by what I don't know. I was watching television in my office both before, after, and during these telephone calls. I began to hear reports of the explosion at the Pentagon. And I knew in my heart that was that aircraft.

And I also knew in my heart that she could not possibly have survived that kind of an explosion with a full load of fuel on a recently taken-off airplane. I wanted it not to be true. I wanted it not to be her plane. I wanted it -- I wanted, if it was her plane, to have somehow survived because she was in the back of the airplane. But we know that doesn't happen, not with those sorts of things.


At a time like this, how does someone like you, with a relationship so close to someone who was so vibrant, how do you deal with this?

OLSON: Well, you have to just take it one step at a time. You have to take strength from the people that love you and the people that love Barbara and the huge number of expressions of sympathy and compassion and support. That has been extremely moving.

The calls that I have received from President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the fact that there are other people that are suffering every bit as much as I am, and that our whole nation is going through a tragedy together, I think we have to think about those things. We have to think about whatever positive things we can about the fact that there are people that care about us. There is a life to be lived.

Barbara would have insisted that I live my life and that I go on and do the best possible job I could as solicitor general of the United States.

HUME: She would have, wouldn't she? What was always extraordinary to me about her -- if you'll permit a personal observation -- was that she was always in the middle of this political combat that has raged so in Washington in recent years. And yet every time I saw her, in every setting -- on the street, on the air, everywhere -- she always had this beaming smile.

She was the most cheerful person I ever saw. I suppose a happy warrior is a fair characterization.

OLSON: Yes -- and a person who was 100 percent involved in living life. She wanted to do everything. She was a professional ballet dancer. She earned money producing movies as an assistant producer in movies and television commercials in Hollywood, so she could go to law school. She paid her way through law school. She turned down job offers in New York from very, very prestigious firms so she could come to Washington, where politics was taking place.

She was a prosecutor. She was the solicitor of the House of Representatives. She conducted investigations. She had just finished her second book. And Barbara -- and also was on television a lot. So Barbara wanted to be where things were happening, wanted to have opinions, wanted to express them, and wanted to live every moment of her life.

HUME: Ted Olson, again, our condolences to you and our great gratitude to you for taking this time at what must be a very difficult time for you indeed.

Thank you, sir.

OLSON: Well, thank you for everything.

HUME: Ted Olson, solicitor general of the United States.


HANNITY: Ditto. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ted Olson and their family right now.

You know, Alan, we did lose a great friend. She was just an incredible patriot. We will miss her bright, smart, funny, live life, love life...

COLMES: Not only that. First of all, I commend Ted for a magnificent interview. I couldn't have done that. I -- I was teary-eyed the third time I saw it just now, and -- he has a commanding presence.

We also realize that Barbara Olson may have been one of the heroes aboard this plane because this was a plane that could have been headed for the White House or some other location -- Camp David was one of the suggestions -- and that she and perhaps some other passengers may have been instrumental in making sure that that did not happen, and she may be a true hero.

HANNITY: Let me tell you something. Not only bright, smart, and funny, but I think, as you point out, brave. And Godspeed, Barbara Olson, we will miss you.

Copyright 2001 Fox News

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