CNN's Phillips, Malveaux uncritically reported that Cheney accepted responsibility for hunting accident
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
On CNN's Live From..., anchor Kyra Phillips and White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported that, in an interview conducted with Fox News that day, Vice President Dick Cheney accepted full responsibility for accidentally shooting Texas attorney Harry Whittington during a February 11 hunting expedition. However, both Phillips and Malveaux failed to note that Cheney reportedly has been telling friends privately that Whittington was at fault and that Katharine Armstrong, whom he had designated to report the incident to the media, blamed Whittington for the accident.
On the February 15 edition of CNN's Live From..., anchor Kyra Phillips and White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported that, in an interview conducted with Fox News that day, Vice President Dick Cheney accepted full responsibility for shooting Texas attorney Harry Whittington during a February 11 hunting expedition. But at no point did either Phillips or Malveaux note that though Cheney now claims to accept full responsibility for the accident, he reportedly has been telling friends privately that Whittington was at fault. Moreover, viewers would never know from CNN's coverage of the Cheney interview that he allowed Katharine Armstrong, the host of the hunting party whom he designated to report the incident to the media, to blame Whittington publicly, with no correction or challenge from Cheney.
Phillips introduced the CNN segment by quoting remarks by Cheney in which he accepted responsibility for shooting Whittington:
PHILLIPS: And we're starting to get bits and pieces of what was said in that interview. Here's one of the quotes: "I pulled the trigger," Dick Cheney said, "that fired the round that hit Harry Whittington. You can talk about all the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line. It was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. It's a day I'll never forget." He went on to say, "It's one of the worst days of my life."
Malveaux then reported that Cheney "took full responsibility" for the incident, and that Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume -- who conducted the interview with Cheney -- "said that initially Cheney was very apologetic about the situation, about the shooting itself":
MALVEAUX: We don't have a full context of the interview, but I did speak with the anchor who conducted that interview, and essentially he said that initially, Cheney was very apologetic about the situation, about the shooting itself. And as you had just read, one of those excerpts from the interview that he took full responsibility, saying in fact it was one of the worst days of his life.
But Phillips and Malveaux did not disclose facts that undermine Cheney's assertion that he takes full responsibility for the incident. Cheney allowed Armstrong, whom he reportedly designated to disclose the incident to the media, to blame Whittington publicly, without challenge or correction from Cheney.
As The Washington Post reported on February 13, "Cheney's office referred" reporters seeking information on the hunting accident to Armstrong. That same day, the Houston Chronicle reported that Armstrong blamed Whittington for not "announcing himself" as he approached Cheney, stating: "You're always supposed to let other hunters know where you are." Armstrong also said of Whittington: "I think his pride was hurt more than anything else."
Cheney did not rebut Armstrong's criticisms of Whittington; rather, he reportedly made similar claims himself. Citing an unnamed Republican source, the New York Daily News reported on February 15 that Cheney said that the incident occurred because Whittington "was in a place he shouldn't be":
Cheney is understandably reported to be sick at heart over the accident. "He feels terrible about it," a source said.
Another GOP source told the Daily News that Cheney has been telling friends the average person probably can't comprehend the situation. "He knows most people don't understand how things like this can happen," the source said. "But people who are hunters understand it. This guy was in a place he shouldn't be."
Cheney also did not correct another close friend, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), when Simpson blamed Whittington for the incident. Appearing on the February 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Simpson asserted that the incident "has less to do with Dick Cheney and much more to do with" Whittington, who Simpson alleged wasn't "following the laws and the protocol of quail hunting":
SIMPSON: But when this man, the victim, the poor guy, it's a sad thing what happened to him, but it has less to do with Dick Cheney and much more to do with him. He apparently went for another bird, picked it up, came back and got behind the two other hunters and didn't say, "I'm back, I'm behind you, I'm here." And if you don't do that, let me tell you, anything can happen. You do it for your own self-preservation. So Cheney hunts with a 28-gauge shotgun, which is about the smallest one you can get, a light gun; the rest of us use 20s. If you use a 12-gauge on a quail, you just bring home a mouthful of feathers.
So he shoots with a 28 [gauge], the rest of us get nothing, and Cheney's got his full bag of doves and quail. He's an expert shot and a great hunter and a great sportsman, but if the people with him aren't following the laws and the protocol of quail hunting, somebody gets hurt. And it's -- oh, what a way to watch. They don't like Cheney anyway. It's going to be jokes and cartoons; hell, they're going to have a riotous time with my old pal. Riotous time.