Hume: Cheney said he had "a beer" on the day of the hunt

Sheriff's Department report said alcohol wasn't a factor in the shooting.

Published February 15, 2006 8:16PM (EST)

Recounting his interview with Dick Cheney, Fox News' Brit Hume just said that the vice president told him that he'd had "a beer" at lunch on the day of the hunt but that hours had passed before he shot Harry Whittington. "Partisans" and "Bush-haters" say Cheney was "drunk" at the time, Hume said, but there's "no evidence" of that.

As we noted earlier today, the Sheriff's Department report on the incident said that alcohol was not a factor in the shooting. However, no one from the department was allowed to interview Cheney until the morning after the incident, suggesting that the department's conclusion was based entirely on the word of Cheney and his hunting party.

MSNBC posted a story Tuesday in which it quoted hunt host Katharine Armstrong as saying that "there may have been a beer or two" available at the pre-hunt picnic. MSNBC deleted that statement when it updated the story overnight, but now a fuller version of Armstrong's comments is back up on the MSNBC site: "In a recorded, on-the-record phone call with NBC News, Armstrong said that beer may have been available at lunch that day. 'If someone wants to help themselves to a beer,' she said, 'they may, but I did not see anyone do that,' Armstrong says. She says she was not sure if there were beers in the coolers but wasn't ready to rule it out: 'There may be a beer or two in there, but remember not everyone in the party was shooting,' she told NBC News."

NBC says that it called Cheney's office "four times" over the past two days to ask whether the vice president had consumed alcohol before the shooting Saturday. In what turned out to be a nondenial denial, Cheney's press secretary ultimately referred the network to the Sheriff's Department's press release, the one that said alcohol was "not a factor" in the shooting.

The Office of the Vice President is understandably sensitive to questions about Cheney and alcohol use, and not just because they might lead to allegations that he was impaired at the time he picked up his shotgun Saturday evening: Cheney was convicted of drunken driving twice during an eight-month period in the early 1960s.

By Tim Grieve

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

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