After another delay, Cheney says: I'm ready to help

The vice president calls his victim after being told that his condition has worsened.

Published February 14, 2006 8:17PM (EST)

Dick Cheney was informed this morning that doctors were performing a cardiac catheterization on the man he shot Saturday, but neither Cheney nor the White House released information about the news until a hospital administrator in Corpus Christi held a press conference to describe Harry Whittington's condition.

In a statement posted on the White House Web site, Cheney's office said the vice president was given a note at about 12:30 this afternoon informing him that the hospital would be having a press conference. Cheney quickly returned to the White House from the Capitol and watched some of the press conference on TV before placing a call to Whittington's hospital room.

"The vice president wished Mr. Whittington well and asked if there was anything he needed," according to the statement. "The vice president said that he stood ready to assist. Mr. Whittington's spirits were good, but obviously his situation deserves the careful monitoring that his doctors are providing."

Cheney said in the statement that his "thoughts and prayers" are with Whittington and his family.

That's the same thing Scott McClellan said, in a startingly somber sort of way, during his press briefing earlier this afternoon -- the one in which he failed to mention Whittington's setback. CNN is reporting that McClellan knew about the change in Whittington's condition before he began his press briefing. That explains the sudden change in the press secretary's tone -- earlier in the day, he joked that the national champion Texas Longhorns would be wearing orange during a visit to the White House because it's their team color, and "not because they're concerned that the vice president may be there" -- but it doesn't explain why the White House once again failed to make a prompt disclosure of news about the shooting.

By Tim Grieve

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

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