Sun, Feb 19, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Cheney's hunting partner leaves hospital

AP , CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS

His face marked with tiny birdshot wounds, the lawyer shot by US Vice President Dick Cheney while quail hunting left a hospital on Friday, saying "accidents do and will happen" and apologizing for the trouble the incident had caused the vice president.

"My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with," Harry Whittington said, his voice a bit raspy but strong in his first comments since being shot on a South Texas ranch six days earlier.

The Austin attorney spoke less than 20 minutes before Cheney made his first public appearance since the shooting, receiving a rousing ovation from legislators in his home state of Wyoming.

"It's a wonderful experience to be greeted by such warmth by the leaders of our great state. It's especially true when you've had a very long week," Cheney told lawmakers in Cheyenne.

"Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well."

Whittington, 78, was hit in the face, neck and chest with birdshot on Feb. 11. After a shotgun pellet traveled to his heart, he had suffered a mild heart attack Tuesday while being treated at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial in Texas.

Whittington, who did not answer questions after giving his brief statement, had what appeared to be a line of cuts on his upper right eyelid and scrapes on his neck.

"We all assume certain risks in what we do, in what activities we pursue," Whittington said. "Accidents do and will happen."

He said the past weekend involved "a cloud of misfortune and sadness that is not easy to explain, especially with those who are not familiar with the great sport of quail hunting."

Doctor David Blanchard, the hospital's chief of emergency care, said the attorney was lucky to have survived the shooting.

Whittington was being released due to "his excellent health," Blanchard said, but added that Whittington wasn't answering questions because "he is not 100 percent."

Whittington did feel well enough to crack a joke.

"I also thank all of you for understanding as best you can that medical attention is very important to someone my age -- and you haven't failed to give my age," he said.

He also sent his love and respect to Cheney and his family. "We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves," Whittington said.

Hospital spokeswoman Yvonne Wheeler wouldn't say exactly when Whittington left the hospital on Friday or where he was going, only that he left in a car.

Cheney took the blame for the shooting in an appearance on Fox News last week, but his comments on Friday focused on reminiscing about Wyoming politicians, including his time as the state's representative in the US House.

"For better than a decade, I proudly answered to the title, `the gentleman from Wyoming,"' Cheney said in his home state.

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