Cheney Takes Responsibility for the Hunting Accident

ByABC News via via logo

Feb. 16, 2006 — -- It was exactly what the White House had been looking for: Vice President Dick Cheney was emotional and contrite when he accepted responsibility both for the hunting accident that wounded Harry Whittington and the aftermath.

"It was not Harry's fault," Cheney said Wednesday on Fox News. "You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget."

On Sunday, Cheney's host, ranch owner Katharine Armstrong, had said Whittington might be at fault. But there was no suggestion of that from a clearly shaken Cheney. Whether this will be enough for his critics remains to be seen.

"He took full responsibility, what more do they want?" said Bay Buchanan, a Republican strategist, political commentator, and president of The American Cause, a conservative educational foundation.

Cheney described the horror of the incident in the Fox interview.

"But the image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind," he said. "I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment."

"He was laying there on his back, obviously bleeding," he added. "You could see where the shot had struck him."

Cheney said that he'd had one beer at lunch, which was hours before the accident, but that nobody was intoxicated. He said it took so long -- almost 20 hours -- for him and his team to get the word out about the accident because his first reaction was "not to think I need to call the press. My first reaction is: My friend, Harry, has been shot and we've got to take care of him," he said.

He said that the White House had urged him to get the story out sooner, but that he had resisted, wanting to be more accurate and better informed about Whittington's condition. He ultimately decided the host should tell a local paper.

"The decision about how it got out was my responsibility," Cheney said.

And despite enduring days of controversy, Cheney was unapologetic -- almost defiant -- about the way he and the White House had handled things -- especially in regard to informing the public.

"I had a bit of the feeling that the press corps was upset because, to some extent, it was about them," Cheney said. "They didn't like the idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times."

Buchanan agreed with this assessment.

"They became the news," she said. "They're no longer reporting the news."

James Carville, a former adviser to President Clinton and co-author with Paul Begala of "Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future," pointed out that the story had changed since it first came out and that the public should know the facts of what happened.

"We started out, it was Harry's fault, there was no alcohol, there was 10 birdshot," he said.

Carville had a message for the White House: Release the facts.

"I go back to, everything we were told at the beginning turned out not to be the case," he said. "Very simple, release the blood alcohol and release the after-incident report."

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