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From a Foxhole, Cheney Has the Media in His Sights

February 16, 2006|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

If you accidentally shoot a hunting buddy in the face, make it about the media.

That was the message Vice President Dick Cheney got out Wednesday, courtesy of Fox News Channel and its most sober and decorated journalist, Brit Hume, who was summoned by Cheney for an exclusive interview and then left to play Cheney's press secretary, getting the veep's talking points out the rest of the day on Fox.

Cheney feels awful, just terrible, Hume reported, but he takes full responsibility as the shooter. Just note this sound bite from the interview:

"The image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind."

Who could quibble with that? What seemed obvious was that Cheney had chosen Republican-friendly Fox News to ward off the controversy surrounding his actions after the incident, and that everyone else hooting and hollering about the nature of the information flow would appear to be arguing among themselves -- brainiac media elite chewing on the nontopic of the day, people who'd probably never held a gun.

"I'll say it again: This is being very carefully and heavily managed by the vice president," MSNBC's Chris Matthews said Wednesday. "When he's going to talk to people, who he's going to talk to, what medium he's going to choose. This is something. This is a Columbia Journalism [Review] case of news management right now we're watching."

That tells you all Fox News needed to know about how to play the story as it teased to Hume's exclusive throughout the day. On the one hand, a man in power who is in pain, genuine pain, that he pegged a lawyer friend instead of a quail. On the other hand, the media rabble bent out of shape about the way the incident was kept from the public for 18 hours, the story given finally to the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times.

Hume was a good get for Cheney; he has a "nothing to see here, folks" air about him and projects a world-weariness about the way Washington works. In pre-interview exclusives about his exclusive, he sold the story as one man's trauma pitted against the tit-for-tat of the Washington press corps, Cheney unfazed by the criticism at the way he handled the release of information.

"A lot of people would disagree with that, including members of the White House press corps," Hume told host Shepard Smith of Fox News' "Studio B." "I think a lot of the public will tend to be sympathetic to the vice president, not least because of the behavior of the White House press corps. But that's neither here nor there for the moment."

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