Harry Whittington, the Texas attorney and prominent state GOP power broker who was shot in the face nearly two decades ago by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, has died. He was 95.
Whittington’s wife, Mercedes Baker, confirmed to The New York Times Monday that her husband died peacefully at home early Saturday morning following a short illness.
Whittington, a longtime Austin-based lawyer, made international headlines in Feb. 2006 when Cheney accidentally shot him in the face and body while hunting quall at a sprawling South Texas ranch.
Whittington, then 78, was left riddled with dozens of tiny bird-shot pellets and lost consciousness. He suffered what at the time was called a minor heart attack because blood vessels near his heart were struck.
When the victim emerged from the hospital a week later, with his face badly discolored and still bearing visible birdshot pockmarks, he stunned the world when he issued a public apology to Cheney.
“We all assume certain risks with whatever we do … Accidents do and will happen,” said Whittington. “My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week.”
“We send our love and respect to them, as they deal with situations that are much more serious than what we’ve had to deal with this week,” he added.
“We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves.”
Cheney’s aides initially tried to blame Whittington for getting in the way while going to retrieve a shot quail, but in a subsequent interview on Fox News the vice president took responsibility for what happened, saying, “I pulled the trigger.”
The incident launched a thousand late-night jokes directed at Cheney, and was featured in the 2018 film “Vice,” directed by Adam McKay and starring Christian Bale in heavy prosthetics as President George W. Bush’s all-powerful VP.
Around the time of the film’s release, Whittington, then aged 91, sat down to an interview with Corpus Christi Caller to talk about his brush with death.
He said the last thing he remembers before passing out was the smell of gun powder in the air.
Whittington said that he and Cheney stayed in touch in the wake of the shooting and even went out to dinner together earlier that year, but he described the two of them as “just acquaintance.”
Whittington also told the paper that he still had some pellets embedded in his body, and that he had given up hunting due to his advanced age.
In his memoir titled “In My Time” published in 2011, Cheney said he was “deeply sorry” for what Whittington and his family had gone through.
“The day of the hunting accident was one of the saddest of my life,” the former vice president said.
Cheney, 82, has not publicly commented on Whittington’s passing as of Monday.