VP Accident Tale Filled With Discrepancies
By CALVIN WOODWARD and NANCY BENAC, Associated Press Writers
Sat Feb 18, 3:52 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney said he didn't immediately disclose his hunting accident because he wanted the confusing details to come out right. Instead, authorized accounts came out slowly — and often still wrong.
The result: a week of shifting blame, belatedly acknowledged beer consumption (not "zero" drinking after all) and evolving discrepancies in how the shooting happened, its aftermath and the way it was told to the nation.
"There's a reason they call this crisis management," said corporate damage-control specialist Eric Dezenhall, "and that's because it's a mess."
In the first days after the vice president wounded attorney Harry Whittington while shooting at quail last Saturday in Texas, blame was placed on the victim for not announcing his presence to fellow hunter Cheney.
"The vice president did everything right," Katharine Armstrong, the ranch owner approved by Cheney to disclose the accident, said Monday. Whittington, 78, should have shouted that he was rejoining the hunting group after drifting off to retrieve a downed bird. "The mistake exposed him to getting shot," she said. "It's incumbent on him. He did not do that."
The White House picked up on that theme the same day in attempting to deflect any responsibility from the vice president. "If I recall," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said of Armstrong, "she pointed out that the protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington, when it came to notifying the others that he was there."
The about-face came Wednesday when Cheney made his first public comment on the accident.
"It was not Harry's fault," he said. "You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."
Although there is no evidence that beer impaired Cheney's judgment, initial denials that he had consumed alcohol were wrong.
"No one was drinking," Armstrong said at the outset. "No, zero, zippo." She said the hunters washed down lunch with Dr Pepper. Later, she qualified her comments and said beer might have been in the cooler but she did not think anyone drank any.
The investigating officer from the Kenedy County sheriff's department, after interviewing Whittington in the hospital, reported that the victim "explained foremost there was no alcohol during the hunt."
Authorities did not investigate the accident until the next day. The Texas Parks and Wildlife accident report, dated two days after the shooting, checked "No" on the question of whether Cheney appeared under the influence of intoxicants. It did not address whether the hunters had been drinking at all. (The report also included a diagram depicting Whittington's wounds on the wrong side of his body.)
Cheney acknowledged Wednesday, "I had a beer at lunch" several hours before the group's afternoon hunt, asserting "nobody was under the influence."
In the rush to assure everyone Whittington was "just fine," some important details were left out.
Initial reports had him treated at the scene, then taken by ambulance to the hospital, where in no time he was cracking jokes with the nurses. It turned out that after being taken to the emergency room of a local, small hospital, he was flown by helicopter to the intensive care unit of the larger hospital in Corpus Christi.
According to Armstrong's initial account of the accident scene: "He was talking. His eyes were open." Later, Cheney said that when he rushed up to the stricken man and talked to him, Whittington had one eye open and did not respond. He was, however, conscious.
Doctors said Tuesday that Whittington suffered a mild heart attack while in the hospital when one of the pellets migrated to his heart. He was released Friday.
Cheney did not have all his hunting papers in order, as suggested by the White House and initially stated by Texas authorities.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said Cheney was legally hunting with a license he bought in November. While that was true, the department's accident report the next day stated that he was in violation of a law requiring him to have an upland game bird stamp.
The accident raised questions about the flow of information into and out of the White House communications apparatus.
Asked why no one released news of the shooting on Saturday night, McClellan said "the vice president's office was working to make sure information got out" but that details were slow to reach Washington that evening.
Armstrong, for her part, said no one at the ranch even discussed releasing the news on Saturday.
She said her family realized Sunday morning that it would be a story and decided to call the local newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. She said she then discussed news coverage with Cheney for the first time.
"I said, 'Mr. Vice President, this is going to be public, and I'm comfortable going to the hometown newspaper,'" she told The Associated Press. "And he said, 'You go ahead and do whatever you are comfortable doing.'"
McClellan said President Bush was told shortly before 8 p.m. EST Saturday that Cheney had shot Whittington, less than half an hour after Bush first heard there had a been an accident of some sort involving Cheney's hunting party. Confirmation that Cheney was the shooter was obtained when deputy chief of staff Karl Rove called Armstrong, McClellan said.
However, McClellan said he didn't personally know Cheney was the shooter until the next morning, about 6 a.m. EST Sunday, when he was awakened with the news.
He said he only knew the previous evening that someone in Cheney's party had been involved in a hunting accident.
What a crock of shit.
The media reports info, then finds out it is not exactly accurate and they decide to blame it on the VP. Even though, I didn't see anything in that report that made me think Cheney EVER lied about ANYTHING.
I'm sure there was a lot of confusion after someone got shot. It is not exactly something most people deal with everyday.
The news media's goal is beat the other guy out(ie other media outlets), and get the story out, whether it's wrong or inaccurate, it doesn't matter. These people would sell their souls to the devil to break another Nixon/Watergate-type break-in story.
You have to understand the mentality.
Who is the party obsessively interested in the simple accident?
The Washington Press types.
Because one of the golden gods of their realm, Bob Woodward, became a millionaire legend for destryoing a president. Matt Drudge, an uneducated nobody who lifted a nothing website into fame influence and fortune, became huge by breaking a huge story first.
All these guys all hungry and looking for the same break that'll launch them to celebrity and wealth. Not to mention, they absolutely hate Bush.
My point is, the usual thing in Washington is that the initial charge, whatever it is, is usually nothing criminal. Whether it is the president's reaction to his party;'s politically-motivated burglaries, or getting a BJ from a willing subordinate, or reminding curious reporters that a Bush critic was placed in his position by his own spouse; often the initial charge in Washington is not really all that big a thing.
Often, the big story, the crimes, the scandal comes from covering up the unflattering accusations or evidence of things that legally-speaking, aren't significant at all. So that is what the media (which hates Bush and Cheney) is looking for in the Cheney case. They're applying Washington press rules to a freaking hunting accident.
Why didn't Cheney not report this immediately to us?
What is he hiding? Was he somehow criminally culpable?
What did the president know, and when did he know it?
They were hoping Whittington would have died, so they could say the VP murdered him.
The man who got shot is fine, he's out of the hospital & he's over it & so should the media. That's it, it is over, the media should give it rest already.
Don't bank on it. The news media is going to try to keep this going as long as possible to embarass GWB Jr. to the max.
Remember the masscre at the USPS processiong plant in Santa Barbara County where a woman killed 6 people in a horrendous murder/suicide just a few weeks ago? It has already fallen off the radar screen for the mass media because it doesn't conform to their perception that this type of murder is only done by loner males.
The whole premise of the story is a crock of shit…
The Vice President DID immediately disclose his hunting accident to the proper authorities.
This bullshit is about self-absorbed self-important press reporters and not the hunting accident.
very true, however the press corp seam to be laboring under the mistaken impression that they are the propper authorities.
I'm sick to death of this non-story.
What a shock. I hate the mainstream media.
So how come whenever they initially report something as wrong they aren't held accountable?
Regardless of who was actually at fault, the VP said he was responsible and that takes a man to admit that. The guy just shot his good friend, a feeling most people in this world couldn't possibly understand. Give him a break.