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Cheney Moves to Quell Controversy Over Hunting Accident


Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on television Wednesday and took full responsibility for accidentally shooting a hunting companion Saturday in Texas. It was the first time Mr. Cheney spoke publicly since the wounding of 78-year-old Harry Whittington. Republicans hope the vice president's interview on the Fox News channel will calm what had been a brewing political controversy.

After pressure from White House officials and Republicans in Congress to say something about his handling of the hunting accident, Vice President Cheney chose to do an interview with Brit Hume of the Fox News channel.

"Ultimately, I am the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. You cannot blame anybody else. I am the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend and I say that is something I will never forget," he said.

Mr. Cheney also defended the way in which the incident was disclosed to the news media. Ranch owner Katherine Armstrong was the one who notified a local newspaper the day after the accidental shooting, and the vice president said that was the right approach.

Mr. Cheney acknowledged that some White House aides had urged him to release information about the incident quickly to the national news media, but he decided against it.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said the vice president's interview had put the controversy to rest.

"The president is very satisfied with the way this matter has been addressed. I think that at this point what we are doing is looking forward to the future, not looking back to the past," he said.

Public reaction to Mr. Cheney's interview was mixed. "I think he is very sorry and he is apologetic," said one woman. "He should have probably been more forthright right off the bat," one man said.

Opposition Democrats continue to question why it took Mr. Cheney so long to comment on the hunting accident.

"Open government would demand that the vice president come clean on what happened," said Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.

Some Republicans said they were relieved that Mr. Cheney took steps to put the controversy behind him.

"I do not think it is a lasting issue. I think it is just a series of things that this administration has done that makes it look like they are not always forthcoming," said Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican political strategist.

Some of those who have followed Mr. Cheney's political career say they were not surprised by how he handled the release of information to the press about the hunting incident.

"The vice president needed to come on television and humanize himself a little bit to say that it was the worst day of his life and that he really was deeply concerned," added John Nichols, the author of a biography of the vice president. "I am not sure this is going to be enough, though. I suspect there will continue to be a lot of pressure for him to answer more questions."

Public relations and communications experts say it was wise for the vice president to comment on a story that was dominating the Washington political scene for the past few days.

"The reason that the press corps in Washington is so exercised about this is, in part, the secrecy that Vice President Cheney has brought around his entire operation from day one as vice president," explained David Rubin, the dean of Syracuse University's School of Public Communications.

Political analysts say the issue was becoming a major distraction for the Bush administration and that Vice President Cheney needed to address the controversy publicly.

"I think it will go a long way to bringing this chapter to a close," said Washington-based expert Stuart Rothenberg. "I think there will be a few more days of some questions, but this story is mostly inside the beltway [of concern only to Washington political insiders]."

The shooting victim, Harry Whittington, continues to recover from his wounds and remains in stable condition at a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas.