In airing Brit Hume's interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Fox News omitted Cheney's comments about drinking a beer the day he shot his hunting companion. Fox News even excluded the comments from what it said was the "full interview" posted on its website.
Vice President Dick Cheney's decision to grant an exclusive interview to Fox News anchor Brit Hume apparently paid off, as Hume neglected to ask obvious questions and Fox News curiously decided not to broadcast Cheney's acknowledgment that he drank a beer before accidentally shooting a hunting companion in the face.
Cheney's acknowledgment that he consumed alcohol was one of the most significant new revelations of the interview, and -- though Cheney said he had only one beer, hours before the shooting -- raises new questions about the decision by the sheriff of Kenedy County, Texas, where the shooting took place, not to interview Cheney until the morning after the shooting. Yet Fox News chose not to broadcast Cheney's acknowledgment; instead, Hume paraphrased it in setting up the interview, thus sparing Cheney the embarrassment of the public seeing him acknowledge that he was drinking before he shot a man in the face -- and depriving the public of the opportunity to assess his credibility as he talked about the matter.
Fox News' decision to withhold video of Cheney's comments about drinking extends further than the initial broadcast of Hume's interview. At 9 a.m. ET on February 16, Fox's website urged readers to "Click here to watch Brit Hume's full interview with Vice President Cheney":
Yet despite the promise of the "full interview," the streaming video Fox News posted also excluded Cheney's comments about drinking. The streaming video is divided into three parts; Part One ends with Cheney's statement that "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget." Part Two begins not with the next question from Hume, which one might expect given Fox's promise of the "full interview," but instead skips ahead to the question that immediately followed Cheney's admission that he had been drinking. Omitted from the "full interview" was the following exchange, taken from the transcript of the interview released by the White House:
HUME: Now, what about this -- it was said you were hunting out of vehicles. Was that because you have to have the vehicles, or was that because that's your -- the way you chose to hunt that day?
CHENEY: No, the way -- this is a big ranch, about 50,000 acres. You cover a lot of territory on a quail hunt. Birds are oftentimes -- you're looking for coveys. And these are wild quail, they're not pen-raised. And you hunt them -- basically, you have people out on horseback, what we call outriders, who are looking for the quail. And when they spot them, they've got radios, you'll go over, and say, get down and flush the quail. So you need --
HUME: So you could be a distance of a miles from where you spot quail until the next place you may find them?
CHENEY: Well, usually you'll be, you know, maybe a few hundred yards. Might be farther than that; could be a quarter of a mile.
HUME: Does that kind of hunting only go forward on foot, or is it mostly --
CHENEY: No, you always -- in that part of the country, you always are on vehicles, until you get up to where the covey is. Then you get off -- there will be dogs down, put down; the dogs will point to covey. And then you walk up on the covey. And as the covey flushes, that's when you shoot.
HUME: Was anybody drinking in this party?
CHENEY: No. You don't hunt with people who drink. That's not a good idea. We had --
HUME: So he wasn't, and you weren't?
CHENEY: Correct. We'd taken a break at lunch -- go down under an old -- ancient oak tree there on the place, and have a barbecue. I had a beer at lunch. After lunch, we take a break, go back to ranch headquarters. Then we took about an hour-long tour of ranch, with a ranch hand driving the vehicle, looking at game. We didn't go back into the field to hunt quail until about, oh, sometime after 3 p.m.
The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon. Nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence.
In addition to withholding video of Cheney's acknowledgment that he had beer with lunch -- even from what is touted as video of the "full interview" -- Hume neglected to ask some obvious questions of Cheney. Some examples:
- If the shooting was, as Cheney said, his fault and not Harry Whittington's, why did he allow his spokespeople to spend three days saying he had done nothing wrong and blaming the victim? Did he instruct them to do so? If they did it on their own, has he expressed displeasure? Will they publicly retract their smears of Whittington?
- Cheney says the administration delayed putting out a report about the shooting until Sunday, February 12, because, "if we'd put out a report Saturday night on what we heard then -- one report came in that said, 'superficial injuries.' If we'd gone with a statement at that point, we'd have been wrong." If Cheney was concerned about falsely creating the impression that Whittington's injuries were superficial, why did he apparently withhold from White House press secretary Scott McClellan the fact that Whittington had suffered a heart attack as a result of the shooting -- something Cheney learned on the morning of February 14 but McClellan remained unaware of when he briefed the press hours later.
While neglecting to ask Cheney why people speaking on his behalf had inaccurately blamed the victim, Hume did take time to ask one other question: "And you -- and I take it, you missed the bird?"