Texas Man Shot by Vice President Cheney in 2006 Still Waiting for Apology

By Maya

Oct 14, 2010 7:50am

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: Nearly five years after being shot by Vice President Cheney on a hunting trip, Harry Whittington is still waiting for an apology. Now 82, Whittington tells The Washington Post’s Paul Fahri in an extensive interview that he still has about 30 pieces of birdshot inside him, remnants from the Feb. 2006 shooting incident that happened on a south Texas ranch. Fahri reports that Whittington’s injuries were “more dire than previously disclosed.” Four days after the shooting, the birdshot near his heart cause it to “beat erratically” and Whittington was admitted back into the intensive care unit. Whittington’s doctors said he suffered a mild heart attack, but he downplayed it as a heart “event.” He also suffered a collapsed lung and doctors performed invasive exploratory surgery to check his vital organs for damage. “The load from Cheney’s gun came close to, but didn’t damage, the carotid artery in his neck,” Fahri reports. “A rupture could have been fatal, particularly since it took the better part of an hour to transport him from the vast Armstrong ranch to the Kingsville hospital.” But perhaps the most stunning revelation in the article is that nearly five years later, Whittington is still waiting for an apology from Cheney. When asked if Cheney ever said sorry to him, Whittington “who has been talking about his life and career for hours, suddenly draws silent.” “I’m not going to go into that,” he says sharply after a short pause. Fahri writes that Whittington is “too gracious to say it out loud, but he doesn’t dispute the notion, either.”  

The circumstances of the 2006 shooting were illustrative of the way Cheney operated for eight years at the White House – flying under the public radar and keeping the press at a distance. Cheney’s office worked in a completely separate orbit from the Bush White House. While the president always has a group of reporters traveling with him, the same rules did not apply for the vice president (and do not now for Vice President Biden). Cheney often took trips that the public and press are not aware of – hunting trips, fishing trips or just visits to his home in Jackson Hole, WY. The shooting happened on a Saturday evening but the Vice President did not speak to investigators until the next morning. Cheney’s office did not inform the media about the shooting until after it was reported in a local Texas paper. The vice president did not comment publicly for several days. Cheney said that week that it was the “right call” to disseminate the information through Katharine Armstrong, the daughter of the ranch’s owner and a witness to the shooting. Armstrong contacted her local newspaper on Sunday morning. The vice president said at the time that he knew there was no way to minimize the story but he wanted to make sure it was as accurate as possible. “I don’t know who you could get better as the basic source for the story than the witness who saw the whole thing,” the Vice President said to Fox News on Feb. 15, 2006. He said that Armstrong probably knew better than he did what happened because he had “only seen one piece of [the shooting].” The White House was informed about the incident the evening that it occurred but then-spokesman Scott McClellan said they left it to the vice president’s office to take the lead on disseminating information to the press. Today’s story in the Post raises questions about whether the circumstances of the accident “may have pushed the limits of safety,” because the group was hunting at dusk and visibility may have been poor; Cheney may not have had a clear line of fire before shooting, and there may have been alcohol involved. Cheney admitted four days after the shooting that he had a beer at lunch but insisted that nobody was under the influence during the hunt. “No. You don’t hunt with people who drink. That’s not a good idea,” Cheney said in an interview with Fox News on Feb. 15, 2006. After the incident, Whittington was consistently referred to as an “old friend” and “hunting buddy” of Cheney’s. But now the Texas man says they barely knew each other and had met briefly just three times since the mid-1970s. “The most you could say is that he was an acquaintance,” Whittington tells the Post. -Karen Travers

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