AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Harry Whittington was a longtime Austin lawyer and a largely behind the scenes player in Texas Republican politics in February 2006 when he became a central actor in what came close to being a life-or-death drama involving then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports Whittington, then 78, was part of a quail-hunting party on a South Texas ranch with Cheney and others when the vice president accidentally shot him in the face and torso after a covey of game birds took flight.
Dozens of tiny bird-shot pellets peppered his face and torso. Whittington lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital. He suffered what at the time was called a minor heart attack because some of the lead shot hit blood vessels near his heart.
The incident, first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in South Texas, was extensively covered locally, nationally and internationally at the time. Now, it’s part of the movie, “Vice,” due for release on Christmas and depicting the political life the man sometimes described as the most powerful vice president in history.
Here’s what Whittington, now 91 and still practicing law, told the Caller-Times he remembers about what he says “just keeps coming back”:
— The movie trailer shows Cheney firing from the back seat of a vehicle. Is that what happened?
“The quail hunting that we were doing was behind bird dogs. So we were walking and as the dogs found the birds, well then, you walk up on the covey and then they flush and you shoot.
“So there wasn’t any automobile involved in the hunt at all.”
— What do you remember after the shot was fired?
“I remember passing out smelling the gun powder, and then I was out of it a while after that.”
— Have you seen any of the promotion for the movie?
“No. Some of my children have seen the trailer. It (the hunting scene) doesn’t sound too familiar. But if they’re (the movie studio) spending as much money as I’ve heard they’re spending on it, they must think it will sell at the box office.”
— Do you plan to see the movie once it’s released?
“We’ll see it. I’ve heard so much about it, but I wouldn’t expect it to be an Academy Award (winner) as far as the hunt itself went.”
— Do you and the former vice president keep in touch?
“Yeah, occasionally. He was here, I guess it was sometime a few months ago. He and I went to dinner. We’re just acquaintances.”
— Do you still hunt quail?
“I’m not hunting anymore. I’ve aged a little bit since then. That was 12 years ago.”
— Have you made a full recovery?
“I guess so, I’m able to navigate and get around. I still have a lot of ‘quiet pellets,’ but some of them had to be lifted and removed.
“When I go to the doctors, they all want to look at my pellets I still have. Usually everybody in the clinic wants to come look. I get a lot of questions and discussions about it.
“Needless to say, I’m very, very fortunate.”
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times