Doctors: Birdshot moved to Harry Whittington's heart
Tuesday, February 14, 2006; Posted: 7:21 p.m. EST (00:21 GMT)
Tuesday, February 14, 2006; Posted: 7:21 p.m. EST (00:21 GMT)
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CNN) -- The fellow hunter who was shot and
wounded by Vice President Dick Cheney has suffered a minor heart
attack after a piece of birdshot migrated to his heart, a hospital
spokesman said Tuesday.
Harry Whittington, 78, is in stable condition in intensive care and
will remain hospitalized for up to seven days, hospital officials
"Some of the birdshot appears to have moved and lodged into part of
his heart ... in what we would say is a minor heart attack," said
Peter Banko, administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus
Christi-Memorial. (Watch what alerted doctors to the birdshot in
Whittington's heart -- 2:32)
Cheney and Whittington were hunting quail on a friend's south Texas
ranch Saturday when the vice president shot and wounded him.
Cheney was told when he arrived Tuesday morning at the White House
that doctors had decided, after overnight monitoring, to perform a
cardiac catheterization on Whittington, according to the vice
After watching part of the briefing on Whittington's condition,
Cheney called Whittington and spoke to him, telling him "that he stood
ready to assist," Cheney's office said in a written statement, adding
that "Mr. Whittington's spirits were good, but obviously his situation
deserves the careful monitoring that his doctors are providing."
Doctors were deciding how to treat Whittington's condition, which
was discovered after doctors noticed an irregularity in his heartbeat,
Dr. David Blanchard, the hospital's emergency room chief, said
Whittington suffered an "asymptomatic heart attack," meaning
Whittington did not display symptoms such as chest pains or breathing
difficulty. He said a roughly 5 mm piece of shot became lodged in or
alongside Whittington's heart muscle, causing the organ's upper two
chambers to beat irregularly.
Physicians from the White House staff, who helped treat Whittington
after Cheney shot him in a Saturday hunting accident, have been
consulted on the situation, Banko said.
Authorities have cleared Cheney of wrongdoing in the accidental
shooting of Whittington, but questions about Saturday's incident
During Tuesday's White House news conference, spokesman Scott
McClellan was asked if waiting 14 hours after the shooting before
Cheney spoke with police was appropriate, and whether an average
citizen would have been afforded the same amount of time.
"That was what was arranged with the local law enforcement
authorities," McClellan said. "You ought to ask them that question."
McClellan referred other questions about Cheney's shooting of
Whittington, a Bush-Cheney campaign contributor, to the vice
president's office and local police.
"This department is fully satisfied that this was no more than a
hunting accident," the Kenedy County Sheriff's Department said in a
statement issued Monday evening. (Watch reporters pepper White House
spokesman with questions about the shooting -- 2:03)
Sheriff's deputies in Kenedy County, near Corpus Christi,
questioned Cheney on Sunday and Whittington on Monday.
Whittington, a prominent Texas lawyer and a campaign donor to the
Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, was hit on the right side of
his face, neck and chest when Cheney, an avid hunter, turned and fired
on a covey of quail at a ranch near Kingsville, Texas, on Saturday.
According to Katharine Armstrong, who accompanied the hunting
party, Whittington shot a quail, dropped back from the rest of the
group to retrieve it and was rejoining the group when Cheney fired.
Cheney's office did not disclose the shooting until Sunday
afternoon, after the Armstrongs, the family that owns the ranch, told
a Corpus Christi newspaper about it. (Time.com: How Cheney stalled
McClellan told reporters on Monday that the focus in the immediate
aftermath of the shooting was to make sure the man Cheney wounded got
"It's important, always, to work to make sure you get information
out like this as quickly as possible," McClellan said. "But it's also
important to make sure that the first priority is focused where it
should be, and that is making sure that Mr. Whittington has the care
that he needs."
McClellan said Cheney agreed that his friend Armstrong should tell
the Corpus Christi Caller-Times about the incident, a move that
provoked questions from reporters.
Asked whether it was appropriate "for a private citizen to be the
person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the
United States has shot someone," McClellan said, "That's one way to
provide information to the public."
Armstrong said no one discussed informing the public about the
incident until Sunday morning, when she and her mother raised the
matter with Cheney. Saturday night, she said, "The only concern we all
had was about Harry."
But she said Cheney made it clear he knew it had to be made public.
A medical team accompanying the vice president administered first
aid to Whittington when the accident happened at 5:50 p.m., Secret
Service spokesman Tom Mazur said. The Secret Service told sheriff's
deputies about the accident an hour later, after Whittington was
headed for a hospital in Kingsville and the hunting party had returned
to the ranch house, he said.
A Kenedy County sheriff's deputy questioned Cheney about the
shooting on Sunday, Mazur said.
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told President Bush about
7:30 p.m. Saturday that there had been a hunting accident, but Card
did not know the vice president had been involved at the time, the
White House said. About 8 p.m., after talking with Armstrong, Deputy
Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Bush that Cheney had shot Whittington.
Whittington has been active in Texas GOP politics since the 1960s
and served as chairman of the state Board of Corrections from 1979 to
1985. In 1999, then-Gov. Bush named him to the state Funeral Services
Commission, which had been stung by allegations of widespread
corruption and mismanagement in the industry. (Whittington profile)
Katharine Armstrong's mother, Anne Armstrong, served on the board
of directors of Halliburton, the oil field service company Cheney ran
before becoming vice president. She also served as U.S. ambassador to
Britain in the Ford administration.
CNN's Dana Bash, Suzanne Malveaux and Tim McCaughan contributed to