Will York explore conflicting accounts of how Cheney hunting incident was publicly revealed?

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote that Katharine Armstrong, the host of the hunting expedition during which Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a hunting partner, "said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling" a Corpus Christi, Texas, newspaper. But when a spokeswoman for Cheney responded to the article by saying that, in fact, Armstrong and Cheney discussed specifically how the news would be disclosed to the public, York printed the White House response as an "author's note" at the bottom of the article, without explaining the discrepancy between the two accounts.

Word first spread that Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally shot one of his hunting partners on February 12, nearly 24 hours after the incident occurred, when Katharine Armstrong -- the host of Cheney's hunting party -- passed the story on to her local newspaper, Texas' Corpus Christi Caller-Times. In a February 13 article, National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote that Armstrong "said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper." But when a spokeswoman for Cheney responded to the article by saying that, in fact, Armstrong and Cheney discussed specifically how the news would be disclosed to the public, York printed the White House response as an "author's note" at the bottom of the article, with no explanation for the discrepancy in Armstrong's and Cheney's reported accounts.

From York's article on National Review Online:

Katharine Armstrong said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper. If Armstrong had not made the call, it is not clear when, if ever, the vice president's office would have told the public about the incident. Asked what would have happened if the accident had happened another way -- if, for example, [Harry] Whittington [the Texas attorney that Cheney shot] had accidentally shot the vice president -- the administration source told NRO that it would have been handled in a similar fashion. "The priorities would have remained the same -- first medical care, then law enforcement alert," the source said. Still, in the case of Saturday's shooting, those matters were taken care of on Saturday, and the press was still not notified until after Katharine Armstrong made the decision to call her local paper.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: After this story appeared, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride called NRO to say that Cheney and Katharine Armstrong did discuss telling the public about the incident. "The vice president was on the Armstrong ranch, and they were talking directly," McBride said. "The vice president and Mrs. Armstrong agreed that the media should be notified, and Mrs. Armstrong called her local paper."

The "author's note" raises the question of how the discrepancy occurred, which York gave no indication of trying to answer. There are at least three possibilities: (1) York misrepresented what Armstrong told him; (2) Armstrong did not tell the truth; or (3) the White House did not tell the truth.

York's description of Armstrong's account was similar to a report by CNN. During coverage of a February 13 White House press briefing, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux noted that Armstrong "told CNN that she did not believe that the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press." But Malveaux pressed White House press secretary Scott McClellan to explain the discrepancy between Armstrong's account and the Bush administration's line:

MALVEAUX: Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening [February 12] and she said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account, that --

McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.

MALVEAUX: Are you saying that she's lying? That her --

McCLELLAN: No. You ought to check with her.

MALVEAUX: We did check with her. So you're saying that's not correct?

McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong, and they agreed that she would make the information public.

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
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National Review
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Byron York
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Cheney hunting accident, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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