The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

About this blog

The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Cheney's accident: Why all the fuss?

Editor's note: Kelly also answered a variation of this question in our weekly "White House Beat" Webcast.

With this week's unusual events, many who cover the White House have been asked that question. This space seemed like a good place to try and offer some perspective.

Some e-mailers have written that since the public was eventually informed about the hunting accident and because this did not involve official government business... what's the big deal? I can certainly understand why some feel that way. The easy part of this is we can all imagine how awful everyone personally involved in the accident must feel. There is abundant reason to be sympathetic to the trauma involved.   

The more complex part is the debate over disclosure issues. Some have viewed this week's White House press briefings and concluded that the media are worried about themselves and jealous about who got the story first. I welcome the scrutiny and understand the criticism, but respectfully disagree.   Here's why.  First, the White House has officially stated that "legitimate questions" were raised so they recognize the issue. This boils to down to a circumstance where standard procedures were not followed. Whenever that occurs in any kind of workplace -- not just the White House -- the reasons why become important. 

There is a long standing and well organized process by which this White House and previous administrations release information to the American people. The media are a conduit. Every day, at any hour of the day, a specific group of journalists is on duty to receive any news release, no matter how urgent or mundane. That group is compromised of representatives from different types of news organizations, newspapers, magazines, television networks and so forth. They form a "pool" and we rotate that duty. Most often those reporters are physically at the White House or near the President when he travels.  The pool, by design, is immediately reachable. The White House and the media have an agreement to use this system. It's standard practice. 

The Vice President, as he described it himself, does not regret bypassing that system. Mr. Cheney explained that accuracy was more important than speed. He stated that his friend and host Katharine Armstrong wanted to reach a local newspaper reporter she knew personally. Armstrong was unable to reach that reporter and was later referred to another to explain what happened. The story went out on that local paper's Web site. Even after it appeared there, the press pool was not notified. When the news did get around, reporters who called the Vice President's press office were encouraged to view the story from the south Texas newspaper. That is not a typical procedure. 

Everyone understands that the first concern was Harry Whittington, his condition and notifying his family. No reporter has suggested those were not real priorities. The questions and concerns have been about what happened later, and by extension, about what will happen the next time a matter of news value occurs involving the Vice President. That is the core of the debate.

Read more from Kelly O'Donnell

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST Wyoming memories

Email this EMAIL THIS

COMMENTS

How this unfortunate accident was handled on Cheney's part clearly shows what kind of Administration we have in the White House. They are outside the laws. They cannot be trusted and they don't seem to give a damn who gets shot as long as it's not them. There isn't a heart in that group. I for one would have been by my friend's side throughout the whole process. We need to not lose sight of the fact that America's boys are dying in Iraq and somehow we can't seem to find Osama whose family has so many ties to this Administration. Makes you wonder "Hmmmmm????....."

[Re: the press coverage of the Cheney shooting incident-- Here's a suggestion for the White House on how to spin the story (because I don't think it's going away, do you?)]

Learning, as most of us did recently, that our Vice-President likes to tote a gun shouldn't really have surprised us. After all, hasn't he been a warmonger all along, willing to send our kids to Iraq on a wild goose chase where they've risked much worse than being "peppered with [birdshot] pellets"?

Well, here's a suggestion on how to put a positive spin on both VP Cheney's penchant for shooting defenseless fowl & his penchant for war: Send him over to Iraq to do his shooting!!

Outrageous, you might think at first, but note the several positive outcomes of such a spin: the VP would not only have free license to continue to kill live game (of the 2-legged terroriste species in Iraq), but would be hailed as a hero for taking the place of some of our kids who have served too many tours of duty, thereby making so many parents, et al., so happy that they might even turn Republican again!

Here's the rationale: Since VP Cheney has demonstrated his penchant for shooting a gun, why shouldn't he, along with others in the Administration so inclined, tote not only their guns but themselves over to Iraq to fight. To date, our kids have been doing the fighting for them: Isn't it time to let them come home to live to the ripe old age some of the Administration already has?
What do you think? :-)

[Thank you, Kelly, et al., at "Nightly News" for taking the time to post extra insights, information, on these weblogs, & for giving us the chance to add our "two-cents". :-]

What's the big deal? I'm waiting for the next time a hunter in my county accidentally shoots another hunter. I'll be holding my breath to see how long the local sheriff's office waits before investigating the scene of the shooting and determining whether or not drugs, alcohol or negligence was involved. How many think the law in their state is going to wait 15 hours to question them if they shoot someone? Be it accidental or otherwise? The VP got preferential treatment in this case. The questions is - does he deserve it? If you think he does, then I suppose you have the right to wonder why the rest of us are making such a big deal of this.

Dick Cheney made this a story. He made this an important story when he did not speak with police immediately after the accident; when he drank beer before hunting; when he refused to inform the press and utlimately the public (whom he works for) that the accidnent happened and its details; when he did not call his boss and inform him of the details of him shooting another citizen; when he blamed the victim for three days until he could no longer get away with that tactic; when he decided not to ride in the ambulance to see how his close friend was doing; and when he decided to go to dinner that night instead of going to the hospital to see how his dear friend was doing. The list goes on.

But sadly, we have seen this type of incompetence, arogance, stupidity, dishonesty and corruption from this administration many times before: WMD and the Iraq War; Katrina incompetence in which thousands had died; selling the control of our ports to a Saudi company & allowing knives on airplanes (I feel REAL safe now); and the list goes on!

this whole thing makes me wonder if it was planned to a point to take the attention off bush's wire tapping.Cheney "SAYS" he had one beer!,but did any test results come forth? I think not!So could it be that once again this administration is lying to the people of the US??.Since Cheney DID shoot the man,this is being very careless in cheney's hunting ability.He should be fined or something on that account alone!I think Ms O'donnell does a fine job of reporting.I look forward to seeing her on the NBC nightly news.

The story isn't about the shooting, it's about Cheney. First there was the delay and how Cheney wanted Armstrong to release it in order to get the facts straight. OK, understandable.

No alcohol was involved but Cheney had one beer a few hours before. That should have been not under the influence instead of no alcohol involved. Is that what Scott meant by no alhocol?

Instead of waiting at the hospital Cheney finds out that Harry is doing good by phone and then goes out for a roast beef dinner. Is that meant to show concern after shooting a friend? Normal behavior? Not to most viewers.

Why the delay in meeting with the news media? Cheney is a public official and must face the public at some time to answer questions. Why the softball questions when he did meet with Bret?

It was an accidential shooting. It would have been reported as an accidential shooting but somehow Cheney mishandled it and now it looks like a cover-up.

That's the story. If Cheney didn't have anything to cover-up why is he acting like he has something to cover-up?

The Cheney Shooting . Much ado about nothing ?
I don't think so . No one disagrees with the description of it as an "accident". Difficult as he may be to understand, no one is accusing the VP of shooting his friend deliberately.

What does come into question however is the procedures that were followed. Mr. Cheney simply went back to the ranch house and enjoyed his dinner. As Al Frankel has said, " Who of us had we just shot a friend would not immediately go the hospital and pace the corriders waiting for news of their friend ? " I agree. Mr . Cheney says there was no room in the ambulance. How many other available vehicles were available on the ranch ? Why could he have not followed the ambulance in one of them.

Why was Mr. Cheney not immediately questioned by police ? Why did they have to wait until the following day ?

In his so called "interview" on Fox News, Mr. Cheney over and over again maintained that no one was more qualified than the owner of the ranch to make the statement to the press as she had been a witness. And yet , the lady only recalls seeing the Secret Service men running thinking that the VP had experienced heart problems. How far away was she from the shooting scene.

Let's not concentrate on the media's concern with the disclosure proceedings but on the content of the disclosure.

Watching from Canada.

If the White House broke with standard procedure, of course it's a story. I don't recall ever hearing that mentioned in a story though. Many of the stories seemed to assume that we all knew what standard procedure was. Most of us didn't, and were left to speculate as to why this was supposedly a big deal. Thank you for the explanation, Ms. O'Donnel. It's good to finally hear someone from the media defending NBC's decisions. I just hope lessons will be learned so that we as viewers can better understand situations like this from the get-go.

Give us all a break, and little credit for common sense, Kelly! You really think the issue behind the frenzy that you and your collegue David Gregory tried to create around a hunting accident was all about process? You and David should try and do a little reporting and news gathering, instead of viewing your position as 'White House Correspondents' as something entitling you to break, and most of the time spin, the news into what you would like it to be, instead of what it really is. I do not even have enough time or energy to point out the number of things we never hear about (or for that matter care to hear about) that, if we accept your premise, should be passed along to you and the rest of you teleprompter readers that none of us care about.

I am a grandmother with two grandsons in the military. I hate the term "friendly fire", but that phrase came to mind when I heard this story. Now Mr. Cheney knows first hand about friendly fire, and that poor attorney knows how it feels to be a hunted quail. Now I will move on.

The real issue is the local police were refused access to Cheney the night of the accident. He says he had one beer. Bush says he is only listening to calls from over seas but how do we know that. Bush and Cheney have purposefully linked Iraq and Osama for their own ends, the list could go on forever. The problem is credibility. If Cheney has nothing to hide, why were the local police not allowed to interview Cheney? This is another example of the arrogance of this administration, their contempt for the laws of this land, and their lack of credibility.

I reside in the center of the country and I can tell you a lot of us "outside the Belt Way" care about whether or not the White House follows procedure!!
It was NOT sour grapes on the part of NBC and other media to report they way they did. This administration really seems to disply contempt for the citizenry. I find their practice, past and present, of sharing information when and if it suits them, to be particularly troublesome!

Thank you for your explanation. I appreciate the machine that covers Washington. As I worked out next to my neighbors at the gym, the single question continued to come out from everyone around me, "Why should we care?" You put it as, "Standard procedures were not followed." Does that warrant story after story for four days telling us that standard procedures were not followed? I don't think that Americans, outside of the greenbelt of Washington DC, care as long as the information gets out. And I'm afraid it does look like sour grapes when a reporter from NBC calls a White House Official a jerk. It also seems to question your integrity when your colleage (David Gregory) mentions alcohol involved, obviously implying that the VP could have been drunk, but neglects to mention that the single beer was consumed hours before the hunt. It's no wonder the VP worried about "accuracy". So, yes, procedures were not followed, but from my view in middle America, it looks like the White House Press took it so personally that they went on the attack. I'm afraid a "shame on you" is appropriate here.

I have to believe that this White House is quite contemptuous of the average American citizenry. Here was a chance to have this vice president, who comes across like a mole that he is so hidden from the public view, to come out immediately and dispose of this horrendous accident. However, by taking that god-awful time to present this situation in a most positive manner, Cheney demonstrated his contempt for the average Joe Public which only predicated his having to go on FoxNews, something this man neither enjoys or desires. FoxNews is the only corridor of favorable spin this administration can muster. Cheney is not a lovable person and his actions showed this persons deep convictions of contempt!

Comments for this entry have been closed

TRACKBACKS

Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do not appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d834ad948669e2