AP: 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.Diagram in Cheney's accident report 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...(more)
Newsday: There is something wrong with this picture.
In the only publicly available, official report on last weekend's accidental shooting by Vice President Dick Cheney, a diagram of a body shows where Austin lawyer Harry Whittington was hit by pellets fired from Cheney's Italian-made shotgun.
That diagram has been picked up and faithfully replicated by television and newspapers across the country, including the New York Times this week and by Newsday Thursday.
The only problem is that the diagram is wrong, by all accounts. It shows Whittington hit on the left side of his face, neck and chest when Cheney, the Kenedy County Sheriff's office and the report itself say the wounds were on the right side....(more)