Published February 16, 2006
This is a full transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Feb. 15, 2006.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS HOST: Next on “Special Report” Vice President Cheney tells FOX News he takes full responsibility for shooting his friend in that hunting accident. In an exclusive interview, he says it was his call to wait to release details of the accident to the press, and he would do it again the same way.
Hospital officials meanwhile say the man the vice president shot is doing well after his minor heart attack and that he wonders what all the hoopla is about. Secretary of State Rice meanwhile hears criticism from Senators of both parties on the war in Iraq. All that and more after headlines from New York.
HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I’m Harris Faulkner. Terror online. A new report saying Al Qaeda and other groups are using the Internet as a key tool in coordinating their operations in Iraq. A nonprofit group analyzing terrorist chatter online and finding some of the groups are surprisingly well organized.
At least three people are dead in the third straight day of violence in Pakistan. Police saying crowds angry over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed went on a rampage there, battling police and setting businesses on fire. Authorities say one of the dead was an 8-year-old boy who was shot by a demonstrator.
A proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage headed to the ballot in Idaho this November. The state Senate voting today to leave the matter up to citizens. Opponents argue the measure is not necessary because the state law already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Supporters say the amendment would prevent judges from overturning that law.
Congress to the rescue for the federal flood insurance agency. That agency finding its access to cash drying up as it tries to meet unprecedented claims from Katrina and other hurricanes last year. In response, federal lawmakers voting today to increase the agency’s borrowing power for the third time in recent months.
Our next news break at the bottom of the hour. SPECIAL REPORT with Brit Hume and his exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney starts right now. For all the latest headlines, go to FOXNews.com.
HUME: Welcome to Washington, I’m Brit Hume. Vice President Cheney breaks his silence tonight on this broadcast. In an exclusive interview, Mr. Cheney responds to questions regarding that hunting accident over the weekend, including accepting full responsibility for the incident. The interview itself is coming up, but first highlights in this report from Chief White House Correspondent Carl Cameron.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four days after the incident, in an interview with FOX News, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke publicly for the first time about accidentally shooting his Texas hunting partner late Saturday afternoon.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately I’m the guy that pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. You can talk about all of the other conditions that exist at the time, but that’s the bottom line. And there is no -- it’s not Harry’s fault. You can’t blame anybody else. I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.
CAMERON: 78-year-old Harry Whittington was hit by five-millimeter bird shot on the right side of his face, neck, and upper chest and was knocked to the ground.
CHENEY: The image of him falling is something I will never be able to get out of my mind. I fired and there was Harry falling. It was one of the worst days of my life.
CAMERON: The vice president said he had one beer at lunch, but the afternoon hunt began a couple of hours later.
CHENEY: The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon. Nobody was drinking. Nobody was under the influence.
CAMERON: Mr. Cheney also acknowledged that, almost from the outset, White House staffers were urging him to make a statement promptly, but he chose to keep quiet and let the story break Sunday.
CHENEY: They urged us to get the story out. The decision about how it got out basically was my responsibility.
HUME: That was your call?
CHENEY: That was my call.
HUME: All the way?
CHENEY: All the way.
CAMERON: Mr. Cheney says he still thinks it was the right call because Whittington’s family had to be notified and his condition was unclear.
CHENEY: I’m comfortable with the way we did it. Obviously, you can disagree with that. Some in the White House press corps clearly did.
CAMERON: The vice president suggested that the press corps is outraged that the information was not provided in a more timely fashion was really jealousy over who got the story first.
CHENEY: I had a bit of a feeling that the press corps was upset because to some extent it was about them. They didn’t like the idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times.
CAMERON: Shortly before Mr. Cheney spoke to FOX News, a hospital spokesman in Texas said Whittington is doing, quote, extremely well and yesterday’s complications as a result of a bird shot lodged on the outside of Whittington’s heart muscle are now successfully being treated with medicine.
PETER BANKO, CHRISTUS SPOHN HOSPITAL: He is sitting up in a chair, eating regular food and actually plans on doing some of his attorney work in his room today.
CAMERON: Whittington remains in intensive care, they said, not for medical reasons but for privacy and offered Whittington’s take on all the controversy.
BANKO: I guess he wonders what all the hoopla is about.
QUESTION: Any comment on the hoopla?
BANKO: Just kind of much ado about nothing.
CAMERON: Well, clearly the vice president thought that much ado actually warranted his remarks today, though some advisors had been urging him to go public and make a statement virtually since Saturday night. Aides say the president himself personally never did. The hope here now is for Whittington’s speedy recovery and a speedy end to this controversy -- Brit.
HUME: Carl, thank you. In addition to accepting full responsibility for that hunting accident, the vice president also described in considerable detail what exactly happened last weekend in South Texas. Here’s more of that interview.
HUME: Mr. Vice President, how’s Mr. Whittington?
CHENEY: Well, we’re beginning to hear he’s doing very well today. I talked to him yesterday after they discovered the heart problem, but that appears now to have been pretty well resolved, and the reporting today is very good.
HUME: How did you feel when you heard about that?
CHENEY: Well, it’s a big relief. But I’m not going to be, obviously, totally at ease until he’s home. He’s going to be in the hospital apparently for a few more days, and the problem obviously is that there’s always a possibility of complications in somebody who’s 78, 79 years old. But he’s a great man. He’s in great shape, a good friend and, you know, our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
HUME: How long have you known him?
CHENEY: I first met him in Vale, Colorado, when I worked for Gerry Ford about 30 years ago, and it’s the first time I’d ever hunted with him.
HUME: Would you describe him as a close friend? Friendly acquaintance?
CHENEY: An acquaintance.
HUME: Tell me what happened.
CHENEY: Well, basically, we were hunting quail, late in the day.
HUME: Describe the setting.
CHENEY: It’s in South Texas, wide open spaces, a lot of brush cover, but fairly shallow, but it’s wild quail. It’s some of the best quail hunting any place in the country. I’ve gone there to the Armstrong ranch for years. The Armstrongs have been friends for over 30 years.
And a group of us had hunted all day on Saturday.
HUME: How many?
CHENEY: Probably 10 people. We weren’t all together, but about 10 guests at the ranch. There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. The covey was flushed, we shot, and each of us got a bird.
Harry couldn’t find his. It had gone down in some deep cover, so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about 100 yards in the other direction.
HUME: Away from him?
CHENEY: Away from him, where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right ...
HUME: There was just two of you then?
CHENEY: Just two of us at that point, a guide and an outrider between us. And, of course, there was this entourage behind us, all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I’m out there. But the bird flushed and went to my right off to the west. I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second, saw Harry standing there. I didn’t know he was there.
HUME: You had pulled the trigger, and you saw him.
CHENEY: Well I saw him fall, basically.
HUME: What was he wearing?
CHENEY: He was dressed in orange, he was dressed properly, but he was also -- there was a little bit of a gully there so he was down a little ways below land level. All I could see was the upper part of his body -- but I didn’t see it at the time I shot, until after I’d fired. And the sun was directly behind him there, affected the vision too, I’m sure.
But the image of him falling is something that I’ll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired and there’s Harry falling, and it was, I’d have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment.
HUME: Then what?
CHENEY: Well, we went over to him obviously right away.
HUME: How far away from you was he?
CHENEY: I’m guessing about 30 yards, which was a good thing. If he’d been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would have been greater.
HUME: Now is it clear -- he caught part of the shot, is that right?
CHENEY: Part of the shot, he was struck in the right side of his face, his neck and his upper torso, on the right side of his body.
HUME: And I take it you missed the bird.
CHENEY: I have no idea. You know, you’re focused on the bird, but as soon as I fired and saw Harry there, everything else went out of my mind. I don’t know whether the bird went down.
HUME: So did you run over to him, or --
CHENEY: I ran over to him and...
HUME: What did you see? He was lying there --
CHENEY: He was laying there on his back, obviously, bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. And one of the fortunate things was that I’ve always got a medical team, in effect, that’s covering me wherever I go, and I had a physician’s assistant with me that day. Within a minute or two, he was on the scene, administering first aid.
HUME: And Mr. Whittington was conscious, unconscious, what?
CHENEY: He was conscious.
HUME: What did you say?
CHENEY: He was -- well I said, "Harry, I had no idea you were there."
HUME: What did he say?
CHENEY: He didn’t respond. He was breathing, conscious at that point, but he didn’t -- he was I’m sure stunned, obviously, still trying to figure out what had happened to him. And the doc was fantastic.
HUME: What did you think when you saw the injuries? How serious did they appear to you to be?
CHENEY: I had no idea how serious it was going to be. I mean, it could have been extraordinarily serious. You just don’t know at that moment. You know he’s been struck, you know that there’s a lot of shot that hit him. But you don’t know -- you think about his eyes. Fortunately he was wearing hunting glasses that protected his eyes.
You just don’t know. And the key thing as I say, initially was, that the physician’s assistant was right there. We also had an ambulance at the ranch because one always follows me around wherever I go. And they were able to get the ambulance there. Within about 30 minutes, we had him on his way to the hospital.
HUME: And what did you do then? Did you get up and go with him or did you go to the hospital?
CHENEY: No, I had told my physician’s assistant to go with him, but the ambulance was crowded and they didn’t need another body in there. And, so we loaded up and went back to ranch headquarters, basically. By then it’s about 7:00 at night.
HUME: Harry have a sense then of how he was doing?
CHENEY: Well we were given reports, but they were confusing. Early reports are always wrong. The initial reports that came back from the ambulance were that he was doing well, his eyes were open. They got him into the emergency room at Kingsville--
HUME: His eyes were open when you found him, right?
CHENEY: Yes. One eye was open.
CHENEY: But they got him in the emergency room in the small hospital in Kingsville, checked him out further there, then lifted him by helicopter from there into Corpus Christi, which has the big city hospital with all of the equipment.
HUME: So by now what time is it?
CHENEY: I don’t have an exact timeline on when he got there. He got there some time that evening, 8, 9:00.
HUME: So this was several hours after the incident.
CHENEY: I would say he was at Kingsville in the emergency room, probably, within, less than an hour after he left the ranch.
HUME: Now, you’re a seasoned hunter?
CHENEY: I am, for the last 12 or 15 years.
HUME: So, you know all the procedures and how to maintain the proper line and distance between you and other hunters and all that, so how, in your judgment did this happen? Who -- what would cause this? What was the responsibility here?
CHENEY: Well, ultimately, I am the guy who pulled the trigger, that fired the round that hit Harry. And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time, but that is the bottom line. And there is no -- it’s not Harry’s fault. You can’t blame anybody else. I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that’s a day I’ll never forget.
HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, I ask the vice president why it took so long to disclose what happened on that hunting trip. Stay tuned.
HUME: It was as you’ve heard, Saturday afternoon, when Vice President Cheney accidentally shot his hunting partner, so why did the story first appear on a Corpus Christi newspaper’s Web site on Sunday afternoon rather than in the national media and rather than sooner? More now of that interview with the vice president.
HUME: Now, what thought did you give then to how -- you must have known that this was, whether it was a matter of state or not, was news. What thought did you give that evening to how this news should be transmitted?
CHENEY: My first reaction, Brit, was not to think I needed to call the press. My first reaction is my friend Harry has been shot. And we’ve got to take care of him. That evening, there were other considerations, we wanted to make sure his family was taken care of, his wife was on the ranch.
She wasn’t with us when it happened. We got her hooked up with the ambulance on the way to the hospital with Harry. He has grown children. We wanted to make sure they were notified so they didn’t hear on television that their father had been shot. That was important, too.
But we also didn’t know what the outcome here was going to be. We didn’t know for sure what kind of shape Harry was in. We had preliminary reports but -- they wanted to do a CAT scan, for example, to see how -- whether or not there was any internal damage. Whether or not any vital organ had been penetrated by any of the shot. We did not know until Sunday morning that we could be confident that everything was probably going to be OK.
HUME: When had the family been informed?
CHENEY: Well, his wife knew as he was leaving the ranch.
HUME: Right. I mean, what about his children?
CHENEY: I didn’t make the calls to the children, so I don’t know exactly when those contacts were made.
CHENEY: And one of his daughters had made it to the hospital by the next day when I visited.
But one of the things I have learned over the years was, first reports are often wrong, and you need to really wait sand nail it down. And there was enough variation in the reports we were getting --
HUME: From the hospital?
CHENEY: From the hospital and so forth. Couple of people who’d been guests at the ranch went up to the hospital -- I think one of them was a doctor. He obviously had some professional capabilities, in terms of being able to relay messages. But we really didn’t know until Sunday morning that Harry was probably going to be OK, that it looked like there hadn’t been any serious damage to any vital organ. And that’s when we began the process of notifying the press.
HUME: You must have recognized, though, with all your experience in Washington, that this was going to be a big story.
CHENEY: True, it was unprecedented. I’ve been in the business for a long time, and never seen a situation quite like this. We’ve had experiences where the president’s been shot, but never had a situation where the vice president shot somebody.
HUME: Not since Aaron Burr.
CHENEY: Not since Aaron Burr.
HUME: Different circumstances.
CHENEY: Different circumstances.
HUME: Did it occur to you that sooner is -- I mean, the one thing that we all kind of learned over the last several decades is that when something like this happens, as a rule, sooner is better?
CHENEY: Well, if it’s accurate. If it’s accurate. I mean, this is a complicated story.
HUME: But there were some things you knew. I mean, you knew the man had been shot, you knew he was injured, you knew he was in the hospital, and you knew you’d shot him.
HUME: And you knew certainly by some time that evening that the relevant members of his family had been called. I realize you didn’t know the outcome, and you could argue that we don’t know the outcome today, really, finally.
CHENEY: Barring (ph) those we saw. If we’d put out a report Saturday night on what we’d heard then, one report came in said, "superficial injuries." Had we gone with a statement at that point, we would have been wrong.
And it was also important, I thought, to get the story out as accurately as possible.
HUME: Now, it strikes me that you must have known that this was going to be a national story.
CHENEY: Oh, sure.
HUME: And it does raise the question of whether you could have headed off this beltway firestorm if you had put out the word to the national media as well as to the local newspaper so that it could post it on its Web site. I mean, in retrospect, wouldn’t that have been the wiser course?
CHENEY: Well, who’s going to do that? Are they going to take my word for what happened? There is obviously...
HUME: ... Well obviously you could have put the statement out in the name of whoever you wanted, and you could put it out in the name of Mrs. Armstrong, if you wanted to. She’s the one who made the statement.
CHENEY: Exactly -- that’s what we did. We went with Mrs. Armstrong. We had -- she was the one who put out the statement, and she was the most credible one to do it because she was a witness. It wasn’t me, in terms of saying here’s what happened.
HUME: Understood. Now, the suspicion grows in some quarters that this was an attempt to minimize it by having it first appear in a little paper and appear like a little hunting incident down in a remote corner of Texas.
CHENEY: There wasn’t any way this was going to be minimized, Brit, but it was important that it be accurate.
I do think, what I’ve experienced over the years here in Washington as been the media outlets have proliferated, speed has become sort of a driving force. Lots of times at the expense of accuracy, and I wanted to make sure we got it as accurate as possible.
And I think Katharine was an excellent choice. I don’t know who you could get better as a basic source for the story than the witness who saw the whole thing.
HUME: The vice president also said that yes, he’d had a beer at the lunch, an outdoor lunch he ate, but had not had anything since, nor had anyone else in the party. No one was drinking, this was many hours after that.
Later, he also told me something about what vice presidents are allowed to when it comes to classified information. We’ll get to that later. But next on SPECIAL REPORT, Secretary of State Rice gets an earful from some members of her party on Capitol Hill today. We’ll tell you about that after a break.
HUME: Secretary of State Rice went to Capitol Hill today to ask for money to fuel a Democratic movement in Iran. What she got instead was an earful of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Fox News correspondent James Rosen reports.
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary Rice came to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee touting the Bush administration’s $100 million program to promote democracy in Iran, and lamenting that country’s claims to have restarted uranium enrichment.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: They have now crossed a point where they are in open defiance of the international community.
ROSEN: But many of Rice’s questioners had a different focus. Democrats used the hearing to assail the administration’s conduct of the war in Iraq.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Because the policy seems not to be succeeding.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Our main reason for going to Iraq was to get rid of the WMD, or as you said, not to wait for the smoking gun to become the mushroom cloud. That was a farce.
ROSEN: To criticize the administration’s handling of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There really is a serious question here about the overnight approach.
BOXER: This administration seems to have a tin ear when it comes to the Middle East, and that tin ear is making us less safe.
ROSEN: And even to express doubts about Rice’s forthrightness.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Madam secretary, you’re very good, but what I’m asking you is ...
RICE: And, Senator, I ...
OBAMA: You’re not going to answer the question is what you’re saying.
ROSEN: Rice also got an earful from the Senate’s most liberal Republican.
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: You won’t argue that whatever has happened has been disastrous. We have a terrorist organization winning elections.
RICE: Well, actually, Senator, I don’t think that the United States of America is responsible for the election of Hamas.
ROSEN: And from a Republican who has talked about running for president.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think things are getting worse. I think they are getting worse in Iraq. I think they are getting worse in Iran.
ROSEN: Two Democrats on the panel, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and John Kerry of Massachusetts, at times treated the hearing like a deposition or grand jury inquiry into the CIA leak case.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Can you tell us whether or not you have personally ever authorized the leak of classified information to any members of the press?
RICE: Senator, this question, again, arises in the context of the Scooter Libby case.
KERRY: That arises in the context of your responsibilities within the White House at any time or now.
ROSEN: When Kerry pressed the issue, asking if Rice supports the practice of selectively leaking classified information, the secretary said she has always, quote, "acted lawfully."
KERRY: So you do not support.
RICE: I have always followed the rules.
ROSEN: Rice is by no means off the hook, as least as far as answering lawmakers’ questions goes. She is scheduled to appear before another Senate committee and also a House panel tomorrow -- Brit.
HUME: Let’s get back to the $100 million for Iran. What’s it going to be spent on?
ROSEN: Well, Secretary Rice and later her aides all steered clear of saying that the U.S. is trying to pursue regime change in Iran. That said, the money would go to things like supporting student exchange programs, indigenous groups inside Iran that promote democracy and free thinking. $50 million of the money, of Congress would approve it -- would subsidize around the clock Farsi language broadcasts inside of Iran -- Brit.
HUME: James, thank you.
ROSEN: Thank you.
HUME: In his first report to Congress as the newly installed Federal Reserve chairman, Chairman Ben Bernanke said the economy has come out of a year-end lull but left open the possibility of raising interest rates further in the near future.
In his nearly three-and-a-half hours of testimony, Bernanke, in language reminiscent of his predecessor Alan Greenspan, also mentioned that economic indicators suggest expansion remains on track, although inflation and other risks still remain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHMN.: The risk exists that aggregate demand exhibiting considerable momentum, output could overshoot its sustainable path, leading ultimately, in the absence of countervailing monetary policy action, to further upward pressure on inflation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: We have got to take a break here to hear from our sponsors and to update the other headlines. But when we come back, a film so anti- American, U.S. troops have been advised not to watch it. Wait until you see who is watching it. That’s next, on "The Grapevine."
HUME: More "Special Report" in a moment.
First, though, a check on the day’s other headlines and a preview of tonight’s "FOX Report" from Shepard Smith up in New York -- Shep.
SHEPARD SMITH, HOST, "FOX REPORT": Brit, Zacarias Moussaoui back in court and on good behavior during his sentencing hearing.
The admitted 9/11 co-conspirator sitting quietly on the first day of direct jury questioning. Yesterday, the judge banned Moussaoui from court after he made several outbursts, but let him back in today, without explanation. The jury will decide whether Moussaoui will get the death penalty.
Germany now confirms it has found two cases of bird flu in swans, making Germany the fourth European country to detect that virus. The virus was first found in the region this weekend, in Italy and Greece, but, so far, there have been no human cases of the disease across Europe.
Senators from both sides today slamming the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, for his role in the government’s response to the hurricane -- the Republican chairman of the Senate panel calling the Homeland Security Department’s performance -- quote -- "late, uncertain, and ineffective."
Chertoff accepted responsibility for government lapses, but also challenged critics. He says it is wrong to say that the feds were detached from the needs of the Gulf Coast.
Stocks ended the day up -- the Dow plus 30 -- Nasdaq plus 14 -- S&P plus four.
Coming up tonight on the "FOX Report," he’s accused of murdering his own wife and daughter, then taking off to England. Well, today, a plane with the name United States of America on the side brought him home.
What’s next in 30.
HUME: And now the most captivating two minutes in television, the latest from the "Political Grapevine."
Emine Erdogan, the wife of Turkey’s prime minister, has praised an anti-American film that depicts U.S. soldiers as cold-blooded killers, calling it a beautiful film. "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq" has drawn record audiences in Turkey since its debut. One of the film’s most gruesome scenes show a Jewish-American doctor harvesting the organs of Iraqi prisoners to later sell them to Israel and the West.
U.S. military officials have advised troops stationed in Europe to avoid movie theaters showing the film. Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official has expressed concern about the movie’s success and the response from the Turkish government, saying -- quote -- "Can you imagine the first lady going to the gala performance of a film that could incite anti-Turkish feeling among Americans?" -- end quote.
Bucking the trend of this nation’s major newspapers, a conservative student paper at Harvard University has chosen to print four of the Danish cartoons that have incited those protests in the Middle East. The Harvard Salient’s headline reads, "A Pox on Free Expression." And its editors call the cartoons innocuous, juxtaposing them with what they deem truly vile anti-Semitic cartoons published in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. One of those cartoons show a swastika superimposed over the Star of David.
The spread has caused a stir on campus, with some students demanding that the paper’s editor resign. Members of the New York State Senate Codes Committee have voted to send a bill on hunting safety that state Republican lawmakers have dubbed Cheney’s law to the full Senate. The bill, if passed, would make it a felony to leave the scene of a hunting accident involving serious injury.
It had been introduced in several recent legislative sessions, but was voted on only in committee yesterday, three days after the vice president’s hunting accident. One Democratic state senator says he thinks the accident could serve as a catalyst for the bill’s passage into law and even suggested that Vice President Cheney be invited to the signing.
In addition to addressing the hunting story, Vice President Dick Cheney also responded to questions regarding his former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who has allegedly testified that his superiors authorized him to leak classified information to reporters to justify the Iraq war -- more of that interview.
HUME: Court filings have indicated that Scooter Libby has suggested that his superiors -- unidentified -- authorized the release of some classified information. What do you know about that?
CHENEY: It’s nothing I can talk about, Brit.
This is an -- an issue that has been under investigation for a couple of years. I have cooperated fully, including being interviewed, as well, by a special prosecutor. All of it is now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He’s a great guy. I have worked with him for a long time, have enormous regard for him.
I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case. And it’s, therefore, inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.
HUME: Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a vice president has the authority to declassify information?
CHENEY: There is an executive order to that effect.
HUME: There is?
HUME: Have you done it?
CHENEY: Well, I have certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. HUME: Have you ever done it unilaterally?
CHENEY: I don’t want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and it, obviously, focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president.
HUME: There have been two leaks, one that pertained to possible facilities in Europe, and another that pertained to this NSA matter. There are officials who have had various characterizations of the degree of damage done by those. How would you characterize the damage done by those two reports?
CHENEY: There clearly has been damage done.
HUME: Which has been the more harmful, in your view?
CHENEY: I don’t want to get into just sort of ranking them, or -- then you get into why is one more damaging than the other. One of the problems we have, as a government, is our inability to keep secrets. And it costs us, in terms of our relationship with other governments, in terms of the willingness of other intelligence services to work with us, in terms of revealing sources and methods. And all of those elements enter into some of these -- some of these leaks.
HUME: Vice President Dick Cheney.
More on the interview with the FOX All-Stars here in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: The image of him falling is something I will never -- never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there’s Harry falling. And it was, I would have to say, one of the worst days of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some thoughts now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, FOX News contributors, all.
Let’s talk first about what happened down there. We will get to the questions of how it was put out to the press later.
But, in terms of the incident itself, has the vice president cleared up questions about that, or not?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, you know, it seems to be what it is. And he did explain -- you walked -- you walked him thoroughly through it. He accepted responsibility. He never said, well, it was my fault. He said, it wasn’t Harry’s fault. In -- in -- in sum, he never said, it’s my fault. He said, it wasn’t Harry’s fault. I’m the one...
HUME: He said, it wasn’t Harry’s fault.
HUME: You can’t blame anyone else.
HUME: I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.
KONDRACKE: He did not say -- quote, unquote -- "It was my fault." That’s all I’m saying.
KONDRACKE: He accepted responsibility for it. He accepted responsibility for it. He is clearly much affected by it.
Now, as I understand it, from my hunter friends -- and -- and, admittedly, I have only talked to Democratic hunter friends today.
KONDRACKE: It is the responsibility of somebody who is about to shoot to know where his team is, where his -- where his companions are in the -- in the incident. And it seems to me that -- that it was his fault.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, I think that -- that -- that what we heard Cheney say today is exactly what you would -- how you would expect anyone to feel in that situation. You would just feel horrible. And it’s horrific. And what else can you say?
You know, we will get into the whole question of whether he could have said this earlier in -- in a moment. But I think that his description of what happened is -- is fine. I don’t think that -- that people are suggesting...
HUME: Well, do you think that people listening... LIASSON: ... that something nefarious happened down there.
HUME: Do you think that people listening to him, to this interview tonight would, as Mort’s Democratic hunting friends no doubt will, have concluded that, in fact, it was as much his fault as he said it is, based upon his description of what happened, the guy not being part of the group for a while, looking for another bird...
LIASSON: Yes. HUME: ... coming up unexpectedly, and all that?
LIASSON: Look, I think -- I don’t know anything about hunting. What I have read in the papers is that, yes, when you separate from the group, you have kind of a responsibility to tell people where you are.
But, on the other hand, I take it from Cheney. I mean, Cheney said, it’s my fault, not Harry’s fault.
I will leave it at that.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I have to say, I didn’t understand this quibble that Mort was making between accepting responsibility and saying it wasn’t Harry’s fault...
BARNES: ... but he hadn’t said it was his fault. I don’t know what that was about, Mort.
And I’m glad you -- I’m glad you consulted some Democratic friends...
BARNES: ... who weren’t there and -- and -- and hadn’t heard the explanation by -- by Cheney. I -- I assume you talked to them before that. So, they know nothing. You know...
KONDRACKE: They know...
BARNES: My guess is...
KONDRACKE: They know the rules.
BARNES: My guess is...
KONDRACKE: Look, I think they know the rules of hunting.
KONDRACKE: And the rules of hunting are, as I understand it from them -- and only from them -- if you’re going to fire, you need to know where your party is.
BARNES: Well, I think there is another rule, too. And that is, if you’re out there wandering around and other people are shooting, that you don’t wander into...
BARNES: ... into where they may be shooting.
LIASSON: What does that matter?
BARNES: So, that -- well...
LIASSON: I mean, really...
BARNES: ... Mort raised it. I...
LIASSON: ... nobody is saying that -- that -- that Dick Cheney did something that was criminal.
LIASSON: This was an accident.
LIASSON: So, why does it matter...
BARNES: Of course it was an accident.
BARNES: Here is what’s ridiculous about it.
The Washington Post this morning, in a news story, described this as - - as possibly a defining moment in Dick Cheney’s career, a defining moment. This is nonsense. It was an accident at a private hunting gathering.
Look, it might have been more important if, one, the victim had died, and, two, Cheney were running for president. But neither of those are true. And, even then, it would have been just a shooting accident.
HUME: Or if it were a duel.
BARNES: If it were duel, like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
BARNES: But, you know...
LIASSON: Well, it certainly is a defining moment in his life. As he said, it was the worst day of his life.
BARNES: No, he said one of the worst days of his life. But he -- but -- is this going to -- does this define his career in any way whatsoever?
HUME: Well, does this...
BARNES: It doesn’t.
HUME: Does this end the fuss about at least -- about whether he was to blame?
LIASSON: Yes, the event itself, I mean, I think it ends...
HUME: The event itself.
LIASSON: Yes, I think it ends it. I think...
BARNES: I’m going to -- I want to call those Democratic hunting experts first.
KONDRACKE: I -- look, I -- I -- look, I don’t -- I don’t -- I don’t think that the incident itself was any big deal ever. It -- it -- it’s a press thing. And we will get into that.
It was a press thing. And we will get into the press thing in a moment.
But, first, let’s take a break. Stay tuned.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: What Scott McClellan went through the last couple days, there’s some sense -- and probably -- and, perhaps, not unfairly so -- that you kind of hung him out to dry. How do you feel about that?
CHENEY: I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Scott McClellan and -- and Dan Bartlett. They have got a tough job to do, and -- and they do it well. They urged us to get the story out. The decision about how it got out, basically, was my responsibility.
HUME: You made the -- that was your call?
CHENEY: That was my call.
HUME: All the way?
CHENEY: All the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: And that decision was to wait until Sunday, as the vice president has described, fearing, he said, that, if he didn’t do that and didn’t -- wasn’t certain -- or more certain -- about what the victim’s condition was, that a bad report would be worse than no report at all. And, so, they waited, he said, and, then, they gave the job to the owner of the ranch where they were hunting, herself an experienced hunter, an eyewitness to the incident, and a former Texas state official with some responsibility in the areas in question.
She went to the Caller-Times. The vice president suggested that there was some resentment that the story went to The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, instead of The New York Times, as he put.
So, what about all this? What about the decision? What about his defense of it?
LIASSON: Well, first of all, it wasn’t really a choice between the Caller-Times and The New York Times. It was a choice between The Caller- Times that and putting out a statement to the entire press corps.
They wouldn’t have given an exclusive to The New York Times on this. That’s not how it works. You mentioned in the interview, there is a system for this kind of thing. You give it to the pool, or you call up the wires or something.
Look, I think there’s two parts of this. One, the story has been blown up out of all -- all proportion. And we -- you know, you can talk ad nauseam about why that was.
But, on the small, narrow matter of handling a story, I think the White House, fairly, comes in for criticism. He made the decisions. They left it up to him.
LIASSON: I think, in retrospect...
HUME: ... it isn’t really the White House. I mean, he makes it clear that...
LIASSON: He -- he -- it’s him.
HUME: ... the White House.
HUME: He said the other guys, Bartlett and McClellan, wanted...
LIASSON: Yes. HUME: ... the story out.
LIASSON: That’s right.
HUME: And he made the call.
LIASSON: He -- they wanted the story out.
McClellan made a point from the podium of the briefing room to talk about how he handled another accident story, the -- the bicycle mishap with this -- with President Bush, and -- and I think a Secret Service agent. And, of course, he got that information out quickly.
If you don’t know exactly what’s happening to Mr. Whittington, then you issue a statement that says, you know, some things are still unclear. I mean, you can get something out to keep the hounds at bay. And they didn’t do that.
Look, it was -- it was his call. I think it was a bad call. He is vice president of the United States. He is not the vice president of South Texas. And, you know, to release it to the -- to the Corpus Christi paper, he -- he really didn’t trust that the -- that The New York Times or whoever, the national media, would accept that this was the whole story.
I mean, he said that. And it was a -- it -- it sounds like an act of distrust on his part of...
LIASSON: Well, what’s the difference? It went...
KONDRACKE: ... of the national media.
KONDRACKE: Well, ultimately.
But he was -- he was not available. And he was going to have it filtered through Katharine Armstrong, and then to the Corpus Christi paper. And -- and I don’t know what he expected was going to happen.
HUME: He argued, by the way...
KONDRACKE: But -- but he could have anticipated that...
HUME: ... think of this. He argued that no one would -- that if the -- if he put the statement out, it would be his version, that, if she put it out, she is a witness, and she is not him, and, furthermore, she is, you know, somebody who kind of has some, you know, authority in this area, supposedly. What do you think of that?
KONDRACKE: Well, if it was a good story, and she was the source of it, the national media would have been invited to call her.
KONDRACKE: You know, I mean, that...
LIASSON: ... call her, yes.
KONDRACKE: So, it’s a bad story.
LIASSON: Yes. KONDRACKE: They should have direct -- all have been directed toward her.
BARNES: You guys are reading a lot into what was in Dick Cheney’s mind.
Now, I -- I really don’t know what was there, I mean, except what he says. He says he was concerned about Harry, the guy who was shot, and the last thing that was on his mind was -- was telling the press about it. I think he could have saved himself a lot of trouble, though, by just alerting the White House press pool.
BARNES: That wouldn’t have been hard. It would have been one phone call.
And, then, they would have known about it, and the story would have gotten out. Now, this is one of -- I think the -- the White House press corps will still be all furious about this and -- and his explanation. But, remember, this is one of those incidents where the press is all worked up. America is not.
BARNES: You know, I don’t -- I -- I don’t think there is anybody out there who says -- maybe some of Mort’s Democratic hunting experts -- but...
BARNES: But, other than that, I don’t think there is going to be anybody out there saying, you know, that -- that happened on Saturday, and I didn’t learn about it until Sunday.
BARNES: Nobody is... LIASSON: Yes.
BARNES: ... outraged about it around the...
LIASSON: Nobody is saying that this is some kind of major political story.
HUME: Well, this has been seized...
HUME: Well, wait a minute. That’s not true, Mara. That’s not true, because Harry Reid was out yesterday, saying...
HUME: ... this is a further sign of the secretive nature of this administration.
You did certainly have the White House...
LIASSON: Look, as Fred...
HUME: ... press corps in full cry about this.
I want to take this to the -- this question. We -- we had the vice president doing what he did. Everyone here at this panel has said, look, he could have headed all of this off by a couple -- by a couple of quick calls that could have easily been made.
But, so, then you have -- so, what -- we are where we are. And the story breaks, and the response is what it is.
As a political matter, is this something that has hurt the administration, or has the behavior of the press been such that it perhaps changed that outcome?
BARNES: Well, I think the press -- well, let’s see what the press does for the rest of the week. If they are still on a feeding frenzy and on -- you know, we do have, occasionally, this media riots in Washington. If they continue that, well, that answers the -- that answers the question right there.
HUME: Well, how?
HUME: What do you mean?
BARNES: Well, that means they will look ridiculous. They will look like they are exaggerating the story. Even Mara said they are exaggerating it. And, of course, they are. If they continue that, well, they are going to look very bad.
I mean, for Cheney...
LIASSON: Well, wait a minute. I’m not saying they’re exaggerating...
BARNES: ... this is just a little bump in the road.
HUME: Hold on.
Go ahead, Mara.
LIASSON: Exaggerating the importance of it, maybe...
BARNES: Yes. LIASSON: ... but wait a second.
There’s -- there’s...
BARNES: That’s what I said.
LIASSON: There’s a couple different levels of this.
For those -- for people who tune into C-SPAN and watch the briefing, probably, the press doesn’t come off -- collectively, come off very good. In terms of Democrats making hay out of this and saying, this points to the secretive nature of the White House, that’s what -- that’s what the opposition party does.
And, as Fred said earlier, during the break, you know, Republicans would probably do something similar...
LIASSON: ... if there was a -- a Democrat involved in a mishap.
BARNES: And they would...
BARNES: And they would look trivial and petty...
LIASSON: Just like...
BARNES: ... as well, if they did it.
LIASSON: Yes. KONDRACKE: I -- I, for -- I, for the life of me, don’t know how the - - the media is going to keep this on the front page for one more day.
LIASSON: They’re not.
LIASSON: They’re not.
KONDRACKE: ... but they -- they have managed to keep it going for -- for a couple of days...
LIASSON: Well, Cheney gave this interview. Maybe that’s another cycle.
LIASSON: But that’s about it.
KONDRACKE: But -- but it’s got to -- the next complaint, you can be sure, is, how come you did FOX News, and you didn’t have a press conference? Watch.
HUME: I was...
HUME: I was in front of the White House today, and a network crew came up and asked me, how did you get this interview? You at FOX News are associated with conservative causes. And -- and is that why you got the interview?
And I said, no, I didn’t think that was the reason. I thought it was probably because he wanted to go with -- with the net -- the news channel with the largest audience. (LAUGHTER)
HUME: I have a -- I have a feeling that that sound bite may never see the light of day.
HUME: Just a -- just a hunch. Just a hunch.
That’s it for the panel, folks.
But stay tuned to find out why Saddam Hussein is so angry now at his captors. We have it. And it’s next.
HUME: Finally tonight, at his trial in Iraq, Saddam Hussein has erupted once again in court. And when you hear why, we’re sure you will understand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I did not get one Valentine’s card, not one...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Not from you, not from the guy in the bunk above me.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And my finger reeks of camel.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Well, I don’t how that...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: And that is "Special Report" for this time. Please tune in next time.
And, in the meantime, more news is on the way...
HUME: ... fair, balanced, and unafraid.
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Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EST.
Content and Programming Copyright 2006 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com ), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.