Cheney's Fowl Shot Again Reveals a Secretive Administration
The news that Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a fellow hunter in Texas Feb. 11 has raised questions about why word of the accident took almost a full day to reach major U.S. media.
Cheney hit Harry Whittington with a shotgun at about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11. According to The New York Times chronology, the news got to President Bush about an hour and half later, but no one in the White House or on the vice president’s staff told anyone in the media about the shocking event. Instead, it was left to Katharine Armstrong, a member of the shooting party, to break the news. At 11 a.m. the next day, she called a reporter at her local newspaper, The Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Katharine Armstrong is the daughter of Anne Armstrong, a Republican contributor, long-time Cheney friend and owner of the ranch where the shooting took place.
Cheney and his staff were not commenting, but White House press secretary Scott McClellan was peppered Monday, Feb. 13, with questions from reporters about why the White House hadn’t made the news public and why it had been released through a small Texas newspaper. McClellan told reporters that when he learned about the shooting at 6 a.m. Sunday he advised Cheney’s staff to get the information out “as quickly as possible.” Cheney’s office didn’t do that.
In fact, when the Corpus Christi newspaper asked Cheney spokesperson Lee Anne McBride whether the White House would have released the information if the Texas paper had not called, McBride said, “I’m not going to speculate. When you put the call in to me, I was able to confirm that account."
A lighthearted wrap-up of the media circus surrounding the shooting and Cheney’s subsequent disappearing act appears in ABC News’ daily political blog, The Note.
But many news media took the vice president’s secrecy seriously. A New York Post editorial asked, “If there was nothing to hide, why the secrecy?”
And the Washington Post editorialized, “Neither Mr. Cheney nor the White House gets to pick and choose when to disclose a shooting. Saturday’s incident required immediate public disclosure – a fact so elementary that the failure to act properly is truly disturbing in its implications.”
Comedians, news media and politicians had a field day with the story, especially because it seemed that the shooting victim would recover. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who had been scandalized when the vice president told him on the Senate floor to “go *#%! yourself,” joked, “In retrospect it looks like I got off easy.”
However, on Feb. 14, Whittington suffered a heart attack, sending him back to the intensive care unit, which could change the tone of commentary on the issue.
Posted 02-14-2006 4:48 PM EDT