Daily Archives: February 15, 2006

The Full Interview

Expose the Left has video and a link to Fox News’ transcript.

Hume: Mr. Vice President, how’s Mr. Whittington?

Cheney: Well, the good news is that he’s doing very well. I talked with him yesterday after they’d discovered the heart problem, but that appears now to have been pretty well resolved and the reporting today is very good.

Hume: How did you feel when you heard about that?

Cheney: Well, it’s a great relief, but I won’t obviously be totally at ease until he’s home. He’s going to be in the hospital apparently for a few more days and the problem obviously is that there’s always a possibliity of complications in someone who’s 78 or 79 years old. He’s a great man. He’s in great shape. A good friend. And our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Hume: How long have you known him?

Cheney: I first met him in Vail, Colorado when I worked for Jerry Ford about 30 years ago. And this is the first time I’d ever hunted with him.

Hume: Would you describe him as a close friend? A family acquaintance?

Cheney: No. An acquaintance.

Hume: Tell me what happened.

Cheney: Well basically we were hunting quail late in the day.

Hume: Describe the setting.

Cheney: It’s south Texas, wide open spaces, a lot of brush cover, fairly shallow. But it’s wild quail, some of the best quail in the country. I’ve gone there to the Armstrong ranch for years. The Armstrongs have been friends for over 30 years. A group of us had hunted all day on Saturday.

Hume: How many?

Cheney: Oh, probably ten people. We were all together, about ten people who were guests at the ranch. There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. The coveys flushed, {name of someone} shot and got a bird. Harry couldn’t find his, it was in deep cover, so he went off to find it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction.

Hume: Away from him.

Cheney: Away from him. Where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right.

Hume: There was just two of you then.

Cheney: There was just two us at that point. The guide or outrider between us. And of course there was this entourage behind us. All the cars and so forth that followed me around when I’m out there {something}. But a bird flushed and went to my right off to the west. I turned and shot at the bird and at that second saw Harry standing there. Didn’t know he was there.

Hume: You pulled the trigger when you saw him.

Cheney: Well I saw him fall basically. It happened so fast.

Hume: Did he wear a vest?

Cheney: He was dressed in orange and he dressed properly, but he was also, there was a little bit of a gully there and so he was down a little ways below land level. All I could see was the upper part of his body. When I didn’t see it at the time I shot, until after I fired. And the sun was directly behind him, that affected the vision too, I’m sure. But the image of him of him falling is something that I’ll never get out of my mind. 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.

Hume: Then what?

Cheney: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right away.

Hume: How far away from you was he?

Cheney: I’m guessing about thirty yards. which was a good thing. If he’d been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would have been greater.

Hume: Now is it clear that he had caught part of the shot, is that right?

Cheney: He caught part of the shot. He was struck in the right side of his face.

Hume: Right.

Cheney: His neck and upper torso on the right side of his body.

Hume: And I take it you missed the bird.

Cheney: I have no idea. You’re focused on the bird, but as soon as I fired and I saw Harry there, you know everything else went out of my mind. I don’t know whether the bird went down or didn’t.

Hume: So did you run over to him?

Cheney: I ran over to him and…

Hume: And what did you see? He’s lying there…

Cheney: He was laying there on his back, obviously. Bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. One of the fortunate things was that I’ve always got a medical team, in effect, covering me wherever I go. I had a physician’s assistant with me that day. Within a minute or two he was on the scene, administering first aid.

Hume: And Mr. Whittington was conscious? Unconscious? What?

Cheney: He was conscious.

Hume: What’d you say?

Cheney: Well, I said Harry, I had no idea you were there. And…

Hume: What’d he say?

Cheney: He didn’t respond. He was breathing, conscious at that point. But he didn’t, he was, I’m sure, stunned obviously, still trying to figure out what had happened to him. The doc was fantastic.

Hume: What did you think when you saw the injuries? How serious did they appear to you to be?

Cheney: I had no idea how serious it was going to be. I mean, it could have been extraordinarily serious, you just don’t know at that moment. You know he’s been struck, you know that there’s a lot of shot that hit him. But you don’t know, or you think about his eyes. Fortunately he was wearing hunting glasses and that protected his eyes. You just don’t know. The key thing, as I say, initially was that the physician’s assistant was right there. We also had an ambulance at the ranch because one always follows me around wherever I go. And they were able to get the ambulance there and within about 30 minutes we had him on his way to the hospital.

Hume: And what did you do then? Did you get up and go with him, or did you go to the hospital?

Cheney: No, I told my physician’s assistant to go with him, but the ambulance was crowded, they didn’t need another body in there. So we loaded up and went back to ranch headquarters basically. By then it’s about 7:00 at night.

Hume: Was there any sense then of how he was doing?

Cheney: Well we were getting reports, but they were confused. Early reports are always wrong. The initial reports that came back from the ambulance were that he was doing well. His eyes were open. They got him into the emergency room at Kingsville.

Hume: His eyes were open when you found him.

Cheney: Yes. One eye was open. But they got him into the emergency room at the small hospital in Kingsville, checked him out further there then lifted him by helicopter there into Corpus Christi which has a big-city hospital, with all of the equipment and so forth.

Hume: So by now what time is it?

Cheney: I don’t have an exact timeline. I know he got there some time that evening. 8, 9 o’clock.

Hume: So this is several hours after …

Cheney: Well, I would say he was in Kingsville, in the emergency room, probably within less than an hour after they left the ranch.

Hume: Now you’re a seasoned hunter.

Cheney: I am. Well for the last twelve, fifteen years.

Hume: You know all the procedures and how to maintain the proper line and distance between other hunters and all that. So how, in your judgement, did this happen? What caused this? What was the responisibility here?

Cheney: Ultimately, I’m the guy who pulled the trigger. That fired the round that hit Harry. And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time. But that’s the bottom line. And there’s no, it’s not Harry’s fault. You can’t blame anybody else. I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that’s a moment I’ll never forget.

{commercial break}

Hume: Now what thought did give then to how, you must have known that this was, whether it was a matter of state or not, was news. What thought did you give that evening as to how this news should be transmitted?

Cheney: My first reaction, Brit, was not that I need to call the press. My first reaction was, “My friend Harry’s been shot and we’ve got to take care of him.” That evening there were other considerations, we wanted to make sure his family was taken care of. His wife was on the ranch, she wasn’t with us when it happened. We got her hooked up with the ambulance on it’s way to the hospital with Harry. He has grown children, we wanted to make sure they were notified so they didn’t hear on television that their father’d been shot. That was important too. But we also didn’t know what the outcome here was going to be. We didn’t know for sure what kind of shape Harry was in. We had preliminary reports, but they wanted to do a CAT scan, for example, to see how, whether or not there was any internal damage. Whether or not any vital organ had been penetrated by any of the shot. We did not know until Sunday morning that we could be confident that everything was probably going to be okay.

Hume: When had the family been informed?

Cheney: Well, his wife, his wife knew as he was leaving the ranch.

Hume: What about his children?

Cheney: I didn’t make the calls to the children so I don’t know exactly when those contacts were made. One of his daughters had made it to the hospital by the next day when I visited. But, one of the things I’d learned over the years is that first reports are often wrong. You need to really wait and nail it down. And there was enough variation in the reports we were getting from the hospital and so forth. A couple of people who’d been guests at the ranch went up to the hospital that evening, one of them was a doctor. He obviously had some professional capabilities in terms of being able to relay messages. But we really didn’t know until Sunday morning that Harry was probably going to be okay. That it looked like there hadn’t been any serious damage to any vital organ. That’s when we began the process of notifying the press.

Hume: You must have recognized, though, with all your experience in Washington, that this was going to be a big story.

Cheney: True. It was unprecedented. I’ve been the in business for a long time. Never seen a situation quite like this. We’ve had experiences where the President’s been shot, never had a situation where the Vice President shot somebody.

Hume: Not since Aaron Burr.

Cheney: Not since Aaron Burr.

Hume: Different circumstances.

Cheney: Different circumstances.

Hume: Well, did it occur to you that sooner was, I mean one thing that we’ve all kind of leaned over the last several decades is, if something like this happens, as a rule, sooner is better.

Cheney: Well, if it’s accurate. If it’s accurate. And this is a complicated story.

Hume: But there were some things you knew. You knew the man had been shot. You knew he was injured. You knew he was in the hospital and you knew you’d shot him.

Cheney: Correct.

Hume: And you knew, certainly by sometime that evening, that all the members of his family had been called. Otherwise you didn’t know the outcome, and you don’t know the outcome today, finally.

Cheney: As we saw, if we’d out a report Saturday night on what we’d heard then… One report said superficial injuries. If we’d gone with a statement at that point, we’d have been wrong. And it was also important, I thought, to get the story out as accurately as possible.

Hume: Now, it strikes me that you must have known that this was going to be a national story. And it does raise the question to whether you couldn’t have headed off this beltway firestorm if you’d put out the word to the national media as well as to the local newspaper so it could post it on it’s website. Wouldn’t that have been the wiser course?

Cheney: Well, who’s gonna do that? Are they going to take my word for what happened? There is obviously a…

Hume: Well obviously you could have put out the statement in the name of whoever you wanted. You could put it in the name of Mrs. Armstrong if you wanted to. She’s the one that made the statement.

Cheney: Exactly. That’s what we did. We went with Mrs. Armstrong. We had, she’s the one who put out the statement. And she was the most credible one to do it. Because she was a witness. It wasn’t me in terms of saying here’s what happened.

Hume: Understood. Now the suspicion grows in some quarters that this was an attempt to minimize it by having it first appear in a little paper, and appear like a little hunting incident in a remote corner of Texas.

Cheney: There wasn’t any way this was going to be minimized Brit. But it was important that it be accurate. I do think that what I’ve experienced over the years here in Washington, is the media outlets have proliferated, speed has become sort of a driving force, lots of times at the expense of accuracy and I wanted to make sure we got it as accurate as possible. And I think Katherine was an excellent choice. I don’t know who you can get better as the basic source for the story than the witness who saw the whole thing.

The interview continues later with a change of subject to the CIA leak investigation. I’ll get that transcribed later. (I won’t have to do this part because Fox News has already done so).

Excerpts From Interview

Fox is airing some excerpts from Brit Hume’s interview. I will update as they are broadcast…

Brit asked what caused the shooting.

Vice President Cheney replied:

Ultimately, I’m the guy who pulled the trigger. That fired the round that hit Harry. And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time. But that’s the bottom line. And there’s no, it’s not Harry’s fault. You can’t blame anybody else. I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that’s a moment I’ll never forget.

another excerpt:

Cheney:

…strong who’s a good mutual friend of both of us. Karl has hunted at the Armstrong as well.

Hume: Say that again.

Cheney: I said Karl has hunted at the Armstrong as well. And we’re both good friends of the Armstrongs and of Katherine Armstrong. Katherine suggested, and I agreed, that she would go make the announcement. That is that she put the story out. And I thought that made good sense for several reasons. First of all, she was an eyewitness. She’d seen the whole thing. Secondly, she’d grown up on the ranch, she’d hunted there all of her life. Third, she was the immediate past head of the Texas Wildlife and Parks Department, the game control division for the State of Texas. An acknowledged expert in all of this. And that she wanted to go to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which is the local newspaper that covers that area, to a reporter she knew. And I thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as possible from someone who knew and understood hunting. And then it would immediately go up to the wires and be posted on the website, which is the way it went out. And I thought that was the right call.

Hume: What do you think now?

Cheney: Well I still do. I still think that the accuracy was enormously important. I had no press person with me. I didn’t have any press people with me. I was there on a private weekend with friends on a private ranch.

and another:

Cheney: The image of him falling is something that I’ll never get out of my mind. I fired, and there’s Harry falling and it was, I must say, one of the worst days of my life at that moment.

Hume: Then what?

Cheney: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right away.

Hume: How far away from you was he?

Cheney: I’m guessing about thirty yards.

more:

Cheney: …struck on the right side of his face.

Hume: Right.

Cheney: His neck and upper torso on the right side of his body.

Hume: And I take it you missed the bird.

Cheney: I have no idea. You’re focused on the bird, but as soon as I fired and I saw Harry there, you know everything else went out of my mind. I don’t know whether the bird went down or didn’t.

Hume: So did you run over to him?

Cheney: I ran over to him and…

Hume: And what did you see? He’s lying there…

Cheney: He was laying there on his back, obviously. Bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. One of the fortunate things was that I’ve always got a medical team, in effect, covering me wherever I go. I had a physician’s assistant with me that day. Within a minute or two he was on the scene, administering first aid.

Hume: And Mr. Whittington was conscious? Unconscious? What?

Cheney: He was conscious.

Hume: What’d you say?

Cheney: Well, I said Harry, I had no idea you were there. And…

Hume: What’d he say?

Cheney: He didn’t respond.

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