From the NY Times:
February 13, 2006
Bush Did Not Learn for Several Hours That Cheney Shot Hunter
By MARIA NEWMAN
President Bush did not learn for several hours that Vice President Dick Cheney was the shooter in a hunting accident in South Texas on Saturday afternoon that left a prominent Austin lawyer and Republican campaign supporter wounded by shotgun pellets in the neck, shoulder and chest, the White House said today.
In a briefing with the White House press corps, Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman, said he himself did not learn until about 6 a.m. on Sunday that it was Mr. Cheney who had shot the lawyer, Harry Whittington, 78, when the two were on a weekend quail hunting trip along with several others at the Armstrong Ranch in South Texas.
Mr. Whittington is still listed in stable condition at the intensive care unit of Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in nearby Corpus Christi, Tex. Peter Banko, the hospital administrator, told reporters today that Mr. Whittington would be moved out of the intensive care unit later in the day but that no date had yet been set for him to leave the hospital.
The White House has been criticized for not publicly reporting the incident, or details of what happened, even up to today, when Mr. McClellan deflected most questions about the matter to the vice president's office. News of the shooting was first reported on the Web site of The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, after the owner of the ranch, Katherine Armstrong, called reporters there late Sunday morning to tell them of the incident, which had taken place about 18 hours earlier.
Ms. Armstrong, who was with the hunting party at the time of the shooting, told The Caller-Times that Mr. Cheney turned to shoot quail that had just flown into the air, accidentally peppering one side of Mr. Whittington's body. She said Mr. Cheney was unaware Mr. Whittington had approached him from behind, as the Texas lawyer had not followed hunting protocol and announced his presence to the other hunters.
"This is of course not something that you want to happen, but it does happen sometimes," she told the newspaper. "It's a risk when any shooting sport is involved."
Mr. McClellan was questioned intensely by the White House press corps today about why the White House never released the information itself and why it was left to a private citizen to report to the world that the vice president of the United States had been involved in a shooting. They also seemed frustrated that Mr. McClellan could not tell them exactly when Mr. Bush learned that the vice president himself had shot Mr. Whittington.
"The very first priority was making sure that Mr. Whittington was getting the medical care he needed," Mr. McClellan said. "Secondary to that is gathering the facts so you can provide that information to the public. Those facts were coming back to us throughout the evening and into the morning."
He said that Andy Card, the chief of staff, notified the president of the incident on Saturday, at about 7 or 8 p.m., and that later, Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, told him that the vice president was involved.
Mr. McClellan would not answer questions about whether Mr. Cheney had called the president himself to tell him about it.
Mr. McClellan seemed on the defensive several times during the briefing about why the fullest accounts of the incident seemed to come from Ms. Armstrong, who told The Associated Press and CNN on Sunday that it was her idea to go to the press.
"I said, Mr. Vice President, this is going to be public, and I'm comfortable going to the hometown newspaper," she told The A.P. in a telephone interview. "And he said, you go ahead and do whatever you are comfortable doing."
Mr. McClellan said, "The vice president thought that Ms. Armstrong should be the first one to go out there and provide that information to the public, which she did. She reached out early Sunday morning to do so."
He added: "I think you can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job."