Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney: 'I'm the Guy Who Pulled the Trigger'

NEW YORK — Vice President Dick Cheney told FOX News on Wednesday that he alone is responsible for a weekend hunting accidennt in which he shot Austin attorney Harry Whittington.

"Ultimately I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry," Cheney said in his first interview since the incident. "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend, and that's something I'll never forget."

Cheney's first public response following the shooting comes more than 72 hours after the accident. His silence has been met with bewilderment and anger by some in Washington, D.C. But on Wednesday, the vice president seemed to express deep remorse.

"The image of him falling is something I will never be able to get out my mind," Cheney said, somberly. "It was one of the worst days of my life."

Whittington, whom Cheney described as an acquaintance even though he's known him for more than 30 years, was hit with more than 200 birdshot pellets from an estimated 30 yards away. Thee accident took place at Armstrong Ranch, a 50,000-acre property in south Texas that is known as one of the best quail-hunting sites in the state. Not aware that his hunting partner had returned from retrieving a bird he had shot, Cheney turned right to shoot a covey of quail and instead sprayed Whittington with pellets from the 28-gauge shotgun.

Earlier this week, the White House and Katharine Armstrong, the owner of the ranch and an eye witness to the accident, implied that Whittington did not follow hunting protocol because he didn't announce to Cheney and the other hunter that he had returned from retrieving his kill. On Wednesday, the vice president made clear that Harry wasn't responsible for being hit.

"It was not Harry's fault," he said. "You cannot blame anybody else."