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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

9-Year-Old Girl Quizzes Secretary Rumsfeld at Press Conference

Aired August 21, 2003 - 20:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Finally tonight: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is usually the center of attention at the Pentagon press briefings, and when he says a briefing is over, it is over. But not today. It seems he and Central Command chief John Abizaid did have some time for one more question today from the right person, a little girl with an inside track.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE HANKS, 9 YEARS OLD: Could you please describe to me the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) progress in Iraq?

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The most unreported -- that's a very good question. What do you think is the most unreported (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, CENTCOM COMMANDER: The most unreported -- that's the hardest question we've got all day, don't you think?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: That intrepid reporter was 9-year-old Katie Hanks, and I got to talk with her a little bit earlier today from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Welcome and congratulations.

HANKS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Were you surprised you got to slip that last question in there?

HANKS: Yes, I really was.

ZAHN: Were you nervous?

HANKS: Yes, I was very nervous.

ZAHN: So what gave you the strength to ask that question, even though the news conference was over?

HANKS: Well, I thought it'd be cool if I could just ask one last question that he could answer.

ZAHN: And had you been thinking about that question for a long time?

HANKS: Well, yes, sort of.

ZAHN: Now, "yes, sort of." Does that mean you were thinking about it while you were sitting there in the room, or did you know you were going to this news conference weeks ago and you thought about it?

HANKS: Well, a couple of days ago, my aunt said there might be a briefing at the Pentagon, and so she said I might be able to go.

ZAHN: So let me ask you this. Did anybody help you with your question?

HANKS: Yes. My aunt did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: All right. She came clean. Katie's aunt is an Air Force major and happens to be a speech writer for Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. She may have had an inside connection, but it still takes a lot of grit to get up in front of a room of reporters, seasoned reporters, and take one last stab at the secretary of defense. Good job, Katie.

We're going to be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Thanks for joining us tonight. Hope to see you again tomorrow night. Good night.

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