Vice President Cheney finally breaks his silence.
``As soon as I fired and saw Harry there, everything else went out of my mind. I don't know whether the bird went down, or didn't.’’--Vice President Cheney
Subj: EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: INTERVIEW OF THE VICE PRESIDENT BY BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS
Date: 2/15/06 5:43:16 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Press.Releases@WhiteHouse.Gov (White House Press Releases)
Reply-to: Press.Releases@WhiteHouse.Gov (White House Press Releases)
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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
Embargoed For Release Until
6:00 P.M. EST
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
INTERVIEW OF THE VICE PRESIDENT
BY BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS
Vice President's Ceremonial Office
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
2:01 P.M. EST
Q Mr. Vice President, how is Mr. Whittington?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the good news is he's doing very well
today. I talked to him yesterday after they discovered the heart
problem, but it appears now to have been pretty well resolved and the
reporting today is very good.
Q How did you feel when you heard about that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a great relief. But I won't be,
obviously, 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 the possibility of complications in somebody who
is 78-79 years old. But he's a great man, he's in great shape, good
friend, and our thoughts and prayers go out to he and his family.
Q How long have you known him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I first met him in Vale, Colorado, when I
worked for Gerry Ford about 30 years ago, and it was the first time I'd
ever hunted with him.
Q Would you describe him as a close friend, friendly
acquaintance, what --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, an acquaintance.
Q Tell me what happened?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, basically, we were hunting quail late in
the day --
Q Describe the setting.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's in south Texas, wide-open spaces, a lot
of brush cover, fairly shallow. But it's wild quail. It's some of the
best quail hunting anyplace in the country. I've gone there, to the
Armstrong ranch, for years. The Armstrongs have been friends for over
30 years. And a group of us had hunted all day on Saturday --
Q How many?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, probably 10 people. We weren't all
together, but about 10 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. Covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us
got a bird. Harry couldn't find his, it had gone down in some deep
cover, and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then
turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction --
Q Away from him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Away from him -- where another covey had been
spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right --
Q There was just two of you then?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Just two of us at that point. The guide or
outrider between us, and of course, there's this entourage behind us,
all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I'm out there --
but 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 --
Q You had pulled the trigger and you saw him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I saw him fall, basically. It had
happened so fast.
Q What was he wearing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was dressed in orange, he was dressed
properly, but he was also -- there was a little bit of a gully there, so
he was down a little ways before land level, although I could see the
upper part of his body when -- I didn't see it at the time I shot, until
after I'd fired. And the sun was directly behind him -- that affected
the vision, too, I'm sure.
But the image of him falling is something I'll never be able to 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.
Q Then what?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right
Q How far away from you was he?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm guessing about 30 yards, which was a good
thing. If he'd been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would
have been greater.
Q Now, is it clear that -- he had caught part of the shot, is
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- part of the shot. He was struck in the
right side of his face, his neck and his upper torso on the right side
of his body.
Q And you -- and I take it, you missed the bird.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. I mean, you focused on the
bird, but as soon as I fired and saw Harry there, everything else went
out of my mind. I don't know whether the bird went down, or didn't.
Q So did you run over to him or --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ran over to him and --
Q And what did you see? He's lying there --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was laying there on his back, obviously
bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. And 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. And --
Q And Mr. Whittington was conscious, unconscious, what?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was conscious --
Q What did you say?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I said, "Harry, I had no idea you were
there." And --
Q What did he say?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He didn't respond. He was -- 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 --
Q What did you think when you saw the injuries? How serious did
they appear to you to be?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: 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, that there's a lot of shot
that had hit him. But you don't know -- you think about his eyes.
Fortunately, he was wearing hunting glasses, and that protected his
eyes. You -- you just don't know. And 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.
Q And what did you do then? Did you get up and did you go with
him, or did you go to the hospital?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I had -- I told my physician's assistant
to go with him, but the ambulance is crowded and they didn't need
another body in there. And so we loaded up and went back to ranch
headquarters, basically. By then, it's about 7:00 p.m. at night. And
Q Did you have a sense then of how he was doing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're getting reports, but they were
confusing. 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 --
Q His eyes were open when you found him, then, right?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. One eye was open. But they got him in
the emergency room in the small hospital at Kingsville, checked him out
further there, then lifted him by helicopter from there into Corpus
Christi, which has a big city hospital and all of the equipment.
Q So by now what time is it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't have an exact time line, although he
got there sometime that evening, 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m.
Q So this is several hours after the incident?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I would say he was in Kingsville in the
emergency room probably within, oh, less than an hour after they left
Q Now, you're a seasoned hunter --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I am, well, for the last 12, 15 years.
Q Right, and so you know all the procedures and how to maintain
the proper line and distance between you and other hunters, and all
that. So how, in your judgment, did this happen? Who -- what caused
this? What was the responsibility here?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, 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 was 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 is something I'll never forget.
Q Now, what about this -- it was said you were hunting out of
vehicles. Was that because you have to have the vehicles, or was that
because that's your -- the way you chose to hunt that day?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, the way -- this is a big ranch, about
50,000 acres. You cover a lot of territory on a quail hunt. Birds are
oftentimes -- you're looking for coveys. And these are wild quail,
they're not pen-raised. And you hunt them
-- basically, you have people out on horseback, what we call outriders,
who are looking for the quail. And when they spot them, they've got
radios, you'll go over, and say, get down and flush the quail. So you
Q So you could be a distance of a miles from where you spot
quail until the next place you may find them?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, usually you'll be, you know, maybe a few
hundred yards. Might be farther than that; could be a quarter of a
Q Does that kind of hunting only go forward on foot, or is it
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, you always -- in that part of the country,
you always are on vehicles, until you get up to where the covey is.
Then you get off -- there will be dogs down, put down; the dogs will
point to covey. And then you walk up on the covey. And as the covey
flushes, that's when you shoot.
Q Was anybody drinking in this party?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. You don't hunt with people who drink.
That's not a good idea. We had --
Q So he wasn't, and you weren't?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Correct. We'd taken a break at lunch -- go
down under an old -- ancient oak tree there on the place, and have a
barbecue. I had a beer at lunch. After lunch we take a break, go back
to ranch headquarters. Then we took about an hour-long tour of ranch,
with a ranch hand driving the vehicle, looking at game. We didn't go
back into the field to hunt quail until about, oh, sometime after 3:00
The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon.
Nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence.
Q Now, what thought did you 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 to how this news should be
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, my first reaction, Brit, 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. 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, but we got her hooked up with the ambulance on the 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 had
been shot. And 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.
Q When did the family -- when had the family been informed?
About what time?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, his wife -- his wife knew as he was
leaving the ranch --
Q Right, what about his children?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't make the calls to his 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 was first reports are often wrong
and 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 had been guests at the ranch went up to the
hospital that evening; one of them was a doctor, so 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. And that's when we began the process of
notifying the press.
Q Well, what -- you must have recognized, though, with all your
experience in Washington, that this was going to be a big story.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, true, it was unprecedented. I've been
in the business for a long time and never seen a situation quite like
this. We've had experiences where the President has been shot; we've
never had a situation where the Vice President shot somebody.
Q Not since Aaron Burr.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not since Aaron Burr --
Q Different circumstances.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Different circumstances.
Q Well, did it occur to you that sooner was -- I mean, the one
thing that we've all kind of learned over the last several decades is
that if something like this happens, as a rule sooner is better.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, if it's accurate. If it's accurate.
And this is a complicated story.
Q But there were some things you knew. I mean, 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.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Correct.
Q And you knew certainly by sometime that evening that the
relevant members of his family had been called. I realize you didn't
know the outcome, and you could argue that you don't know the outcome
today, really, finally.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: As we saw, if we'd put out a report Saturday
night on what we heard then -- one report came in that 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, and this is a complicated story that, frankly,
most reporters would never have dealt with before, so --
Q Had you discussed this with colleagues in the White House,
with the President, and so on?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I did not. The White House was notified, but
I did not discuss it directly, myself. I talked to Andy Card, I guess
it was Sunday morning.
Q Not until Sunday morning? Was that the first conversation
you'd had with anybody in the -- at the White House?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q And did you discuss this with Karl Rove at any time, as has
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, Karl talks to -- I don't recall talking to
Karl. Karl did talk with Katherine Armstrong, who is a good mutual
friend to both of us. Karl hunts at the Armstrong, as well --
Q Say that again?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I said Karl has hunted at the Armstrong, as
well, and we're both good friends of the Armstrongs and of Katherine
Armstrong. And Katherine suggested, and I agreed, that she would go
make the announcement, that is that she'd put the story out. And I
thought that made good sense for several reasons. First of all, she was
an eye-witness. 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 commission in the state of Texas, an acknowledged expert in all
And she wanted to go to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which is
the local newspaper, covers that area, to reporters she knew. And I
thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as
possible from somebody 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.
Q What do you think now?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: 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. In terms of who I would contact to
have somebody who would understand what we're even talking about, the
first person that we talked with at one point, when Katherine first
called the desk to get hold of a reporter didn't know the difference
between a bullet and a shotgun -- a rifle bullet and a shotgun. And
there are a lot of basic important parts of the story that required some
degree of understanding. And so we were confident that Katherine was
the right one, especially because she was an eye-witness and she could
speak authoritatively on it. She probably knew better than I did what
had happened since I'd only seen one piece of it.
Q By the next morning, had you spoken again to Mr. Whittington?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The next morning I talked to his wife. And
then I went to the hospital in Corpus Christi and visited with him.
Q When was that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, it was shortly after noon on Sunday.
Q Now, by that time had the word gone out to the newspaper?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I believe it had. I can't remember what time
Katherine actually talked to the reporter. She had trouble that morning
actually finding a reporter. But they finally got connected with the
reporter, and that's when the story then went out.
Q Now, it strikes me that you must have known that this was
going to be a national story --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, sure.
Q -- and it does raise the question of whether you couldn't have
headed off this beltway firestorm if you had put out the word to the
national media, as well as to the local newspaper so that it could post
it on its website. I mean, in retrospect, wouldn't that have been the
wise course --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, who is going to do that? Are they going
to take my word for what happened? There is obviously --
Q Well, obviously, you could have put the statement out in the
name of whoever you wanted. You could put it out in the name of Mrs.
Armstrong, if you wanted to. Obviously, that's -- she's the one who
made the statement.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: 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, it was --
Q Right, understood. Now, the suspicion grows in some quarters
that you -- that this was an attempt to minimize it, by having it first
appear in a little paper and appear like a little hunting incident down
in a remote corner of Texas.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There wasn't any way this was going to be
minimized, Brit; but it was important that it be accurate. I do think
what I've experienced over the years here in Washington is as the media
outlets have proliferated, speed has become sort of a driving force,
lots of time 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 could get better as the basic source for
the story than the witness who saw the whole thing.
Q When did you first speak to -- if you spoke to Andy Card at,
what, mid-day, you said, on Sunday?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sometime Sunday morning.
Q And what about -- when did you first -- when, if ever, have
you discussed it with the President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I talked to him about it yesterday, or Monday
-- first on Monday, and then on Tuesday, too.
Q There is reporting to the effect that some in the White House
feel you kind of -- well, look at what Scott McClellan went through the
last couple days. There's some sense -- and perhaps not unfairly so --
that you kind of hung him out to dry. How do you feel about that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Scott does a great job and it's a tough
job. It's especially a tough job under these conditions and
circumstances. I had a bit of the feeling that the press corps was
upset because, to some extent, it was about them -- they didn't like the
idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New
York Times. But it strikes me that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is
just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is, especially for
covering a major story in south Texas.
Q Well, perhaps so, but isn't there an institution here present
at the White House that has long-established itself as the vehicle
through which White House news gets out, and that's the pool?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I had no press person with me, no coverage
with me, no White House reporters with me. I'm comfortable with the way
we did it, obviously. You can disagree with that, and some of the White
House press corps clearly do. But, no, I've got nothing but good things
to say about Scott McClellan and Dan Bartlett. They've got a tough job
to do and they do it well. They urged us to get the story out. The
decision about how it got out, basically, was my responsibility.
Q That was your call.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That was my call.
Q All the way.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All the way. It was recommended to me --
Katherine Armstrong wanted to do it, as she said, and I concurred in
that; I thought it made good sense.
Q Now, you're talking to me today -- this is, what, Wednesday?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Wednesday.
Q What about just coming out yourself Monday/Tuesday -- how
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, part of it obviously has to do with the
status of Harry Whittington. And it's a difficult subject to talk
about, frankly, Brit. But most especially I've been very concerned
about him and focused on him and feel more comfortable coming out today
because of the fact that his circumstances have improved, he's gotten by
what was a potential crisis yesterday, with respect to the developments
concerning his heart. I think this decision we made, that this was the
right way to do it.
Q Describe if you can your conversations with him, what you've
said to him and the attitude he's shown toward you in the aftermath of
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He's been fantastic. He's a gentleman in
every respect. He oftentimes expressed more concern about me than about
himself. He's been in good spirits, unfailingly cheerful --
Q What did he say about that? You said, "expressed concern"
about you -- what did he say?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, when I first saw him in the hospital,
for example, he said, look, he said, I don't want this to create
problems for you. He literally was more concerned about me and the
impact on me than he was on the fact that he'd been shot. He's a -- I
guess I'd describe him as a true Texas gentleman, a very successful
attorney, successful businessman in Austin; a gentleman in every respect
of the word. And he's been superb.
Q For you, personally, how would you -- you said this was one of
the worst days of your life. How so?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What happened to my friend as a result of my
actions, it's part of this sudden, you know, in less than a second, less
time than it takes to tell, going from what is a very happy, pleasant
day with great friends in a beautiful part of the country, doing
something I love -- to, my gosh, I've shot my friend. I've never
experienced anything quite like that before.
Q Will it affect your attitude toward this pastime you so love
in the future?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I can't say that. You know, we canceled the
Sunday hunt. I said, look I'm not -- we were scheduled to go out again
on Sunday and I said I'm not going to go on Sunday, I want to focus on
Harry. I'll have to think about it.
Q Some organizations have said they hoped you would find a less
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's brought me great pleasure over the
years. I love the people that I've hunted with and do hunt with; love
the outdoors, it's part of my heritage, growing up in Wyoming. It's
part of who I am. But as I say, the season is ending, I'm going to let
some time pass over it and think about the future.
Q On another subject, court filings have indicated that Scooter
Libby has suggested that his superiors -- unidentified -- authorized the
release of some classified information. What do you know about that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's nothing I can talk about, Brit. This is
an issue that's been under investigation for a couple of years. I've
cooperated fully, including being interviewed, as well, by a special
prosecutor. All of it is now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to
the presumption of innocence. He's a great guy. I've worked with him
for a long time, have enormous regard for him. I may well be called as
a witness at some point in the case and it's, therefore, inappropriate
for me to comment on any facet of the case.
Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice
President has the authority to declassify information?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.
Q There is.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Have you done it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated
declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The
executive order --
Q You ever done it unilaterally?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an
executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and
obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes
the Vice President.
Q There have been two leaks, one that pertained to possible
facilities in Europe; and another that pertained to this NSA matter.
There are officials who have had various characterizations of the degree
of damage done by those. How would you characterize the damage done by
those two reports?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There clearly has been damage done.
Q Which has been the more harmful, in your view?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into just sort of ranking
them, then you get into why is one more damaging than the other. One of
the problems we have as a government is our inability to keep secrets.
And it costs us, in terms of our relationship with other governments, in
terms of the willingness of other intelligence services to work with us,
in terms of revealing sources and methods. And all of those elements
enter into some of these leaks.
Q Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for doing this.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Brit.
END 2:28 P.M. EST