Rove Pushed Cheney To Talk

US Vice President Dick Cheney, 2006/2/6, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, 2005/11/11
AP
President Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, pushed Vice President Dick Cheney to speak publicly about shooting a fellow hunter, sources tell CBS News.

Rove worried the vice president's silence on the issue was becoming a political problem, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

Cheney is in a "state of meltdown" over shooting his friend and the political fallout it has caused, a source close to the Cheney has told CBS News. On Wednesday, he accepted full blame for the incident and defended the decision to not publicly disclose the accident until the following day.

Cheney described when he shot 78-year-old Harry Whittington as "one of the worst days of my life."

"I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry," Cheney told Fox News Channel in his first public comments since the shooting Saturday in south Texas.

CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports another source within the White House said "you can imagine how upset the vice president is," adding that the Whittington family is worried about Cheney.

Cheney described seeing Whittington fall to the ground after he pulled the trigger while aiming at a covey of quail.

"The image of him falling is something I'll never ever be able to get out of my mind," Cheney said. "I fired, and there's Harry falling. It was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life at that moment."


Read the transcript of the interview with VP Dick Cheney.
Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's report on Cheney shooting Whittington (.pdf).
Read and comment about coverage of this story in Public Eye.

Cheney has been under intense political pressure to speak out about the shooting incident, which has become a public relations embarrassment and potential political liability for the White House. Until Wednesday, Cheney had refused to comment on why he withheld information about the shooting, which prolonged the controversy and made him the butt of jokes.

But Borger reports it the incident has not hurt the president's relationship with Cheney, and a source told her the two are still close.

Cheney was soft-spoken and somber during the interview with Fox's Brit Hume.

"You can talk about all of the other conditions that exist at the time but that's the bottom line and — it was not Harry's fault," he said. "You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."

Cheney said he had had a beer at lunch that day, but nobody was drinking when they went back out to hunt several hours later.