McClellan: Too busy to report on Cheney shooting

The "first priority" was ensuring that Cheney's victim got proper medical care.

Published February 13, 2006 6:05PM (EST)

With everyone from CBS to the National Review Online raising questions about the White House decision to slow-roll news of Dick Cheney's hunting accident, we'd like to chime in with a question for Scott McClellan: Just how many members of the White House press staff were directly involved in the medical care for Cheney's victim?

Under siege from reporters at this morning's press gaggle, McClellan defended the slow release of information on the shooting by saying that the "first priority ... was making sure that Mr. Whittington was getting the medical care that he needed." We can't quibble with that, and we're happy to hear that Cheney's medical team was on hand to provide Whittington with top-notch care before he was taken to one hospital and then another for further treatment.

But once the doors closed on Cheney's ambulance Saturday afternoon, wasn't the White House role in Whittington's medical care pretty much over? And if Andy Card and Karl Rove had time to brief the president, and if -- as McClellan says -- the Office of the Vice President had time to "work with" Bush-Cheney Pioneer Katharine Armstrong to get the story out, how is it that the hardworking staffers in the White House press office didn't have time to inform the public of the incident before they were called on it Sunday afternoon?

"We are concerned when an official of the United States is involved in a shooting and 24 hours passes without official word coming out," Kathleen Carroll, executive editor for the Associated Press, tells Editor and Publisher. "The vice president's office did not choose to announce it, go public with it. We are talking to everyone this morning about what happened, who is responsible, and the issues related to who should say something and why."

The Washington Post's Peter Baker said today that he's "not sure there is a standard protocol when the vice president shoots someone." There is, however, a standard protocol when the Bush administration is faced with bad news, and it seems to have been in full effect this weekend.

By Tim Grieve

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

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