A Texas lawyer accidentally shot by Vice President Dick Cheney has suffered a minor heart-attack. Doctors say the heart irregularity was caused by a pellet that struck the man during a Saturday hunting accident.
Doctors at a Texas hospital say Harry Whittington, 78, is back in intensive care after birdshot in or near his heart caused it to beat irregularly. Hospital Administrator Peter Banko says Whittington will remain in hospital another week to make sure more of the shot does not move to other vital organs.
In a written statement, Vice President Cheney's office said he telephoned Whittington Tuesday afternoon to wish him well and say he stands ready to assist. According to the Vice President's office, Whittington's spirits were good but his situation deserves the careful monitoring doctors are providing.
Whittington was struck in the face, neck, and chest with birdshot from the vice president's 28-gauge shotgun while the men were hunting quail on a private Texas ranch Saturday.
That news did not become public until Sunday afternoon when the owner of the ranch telephoned a local newspaper. The White House says the delay resulted from concern about Whittington's condition and was not meant to cover-up the accident.
Nonetheless, White House spokesman Scott McClellan has faced aggressive questioning the last two days over why administration officials deferred to the vice president about how best to handle the situation.
McClellan Tuesday said White House reporters are free to keep focusing on the accidental shooting, but the president and his staff are moving on to issues that he says Americans are more concerned about including the economy and health care. "I worked to answer the questions to the best of my ability and in a forthright manner based on the facts that I knew. There were some very legitimate questions that were asked. As I indicated, I always believe that you can look back and work to do better. I indicated that yesterday. I think today where we are focusing our efforts is on what are the most pressing priorities for the American people," he said.
Comedians and opposition Democrats are not likely to move on as quickly as the White House would like.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says the 14-hour delay in releasing information about the shooting shows there is no administration more secretive than the Bush administration. "I think the reason it took the Vice President a day to talk about this is part of the secretive nature of this administration. The American people are not entitled to know what is going in their mindset. They keep things pretty close to the chest," he said.
Senator Reid says it is time the American people heard directly from the vice president about the shooting. White House spokesman McClellan says the vice president has communicated through his office.
No criminal charges are expected.