Harry Whittington, the man who was shot by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2006 talked to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post about the experience and his life since.
Nearly five years on, Harry Whittington still speaks with a slight flutter in his voice — a “warble,” he calls it, inadvertently choosing a bird metaphor. His easy East Texas drawl changed forever one day in February 2006 when a tiny lead pellet pierced his larynx. It’s still there.
Four years ago, Whittington was on a quail hunt, walking in the tall grass of a South Texas ranch, when a fellow hunter wheeled on a winging bird and fired. The shot peppered Whittington in the face, neck and torso. The shooter was Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States.
Eyewitnesses, including Cheney, said the shooting was accidental. Whittington doesn’t dispute that, but his memory of the event is limited only to his most immediate sensations. “All I remember was the smell of burning powder,” he says. “And then I passed out.”
Paramedics rushed the bleeding and unconscious Whittington to a hospital in tiny Kingsville, Tex. Doctors deemed his injuries serious enough to transfer him via helicopter to larger hospital in Corpus Christi, about 40 miles away.
No one in the vice president’s entourage said a word about it publicly until the next morning, when Katharine Armstrong, the daughter of the ranch’s owner, spoke with a reporter from a local newspaper. Armstrong blamed Whittington for blundering into Cheney’s line of fire, a comment that White House spokesman Scott McClellan repeated later that day. Investigators didn’t speak to Cheney until the next morning, and Cheney didn’t address the issue in public until four days later. In a TV interview on Fox News back in Washington, he took responsibility for the shooting (“Ultimately, I am the guy who pulled the trigger… “) but offered no apologies.
And he never has. Because when you’re a Dick, you don’t have to.