Cheney shoots a man in Texas, but you don't need to know

The White House keeps the shooting secret until a Corpus Christi newspaper gets a tip.

Published February 13, 2006 1:56PM (EST)

Is there a point where secrecy becomes reflexive, where the default response -- the baseline, the automatic, the unless-someone-says-differently presumption -- is that we're not telling anyone about anything?

When Vice President Dick Cheney shot a man in Texas Saturday -- and if you're just getting the news, no, we're not making this up -- the White House made a decision not to inform the public or the press.

Cheney shot 78-year-old Austin attorney Harry Whittington in what appears to have been a hunting accident Saturday afternoon. But neither the Office of the Vice President nor the White House press office said a peep about the incident until Sunday, and they released information then only after a local reporter at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times got a tip about it from a woman who owns the land where the shooting occurred.

The shooting wasn't exactly trivial; the victim was treated by Cheney's medical team on the spot, taken by ambulance to a local hospital and then flown by helicopter to a larger medical facility, where he was initially in intensive care. And the White House thought it was important enough to inform the president, who was apparently briefed Saturday and repeatedly on Sunday.

But would anyone at the White House have ever told anyone in the press if the landowner hadn't called the Corpus Christi paper first? As Editor and Publisher reports, a reporter for the Corpus Christi paper put that question to Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride. Her response: "I'm not going to speculate."

We'll take that as a "no."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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