WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday accepted full responsibility for shooting a fellow hunter and defended his decision to not publicly disclose the accident until the following day.
"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.
Cheney described seeing 78-year-old Harry Whittington fall to the ground after he pulled the trigger while aiming at a covey of quail, calling it one of the worst days of his life.
"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 in an interview with Brit Hume. "You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."
He said he fortunately always has a medical team with him, and members of that team responded to Whittington immediately after the accident.
"I ran over to him," Cheney said. "He was laying there on his back, obviously, bleeding. You could see where the shot struck him."
He said he has no idea if he hit a bird because he was completely focused on Whittington.
"I said, 'Harry, I had no idea you were there.' He didn't respond," Cheney said.
Whittington was reported doing well at a Texas hospital Wednesday after doctors said that a pellet entered his heart and that he had what they called caused "a mild heart attack."
One pellet from Cheney's shotgun -- just under one-tenth of an inch in diameter -- traveled to Whittington's heart. Hospital officials said the Texan had a normal heart rhythm again Wednesday afternoon and was sitting up in a chair, eating regular food and planning to do some legal work in his room.
Cheney has been roundly criticized for failing to tell the public about the accident until the next day. He said he thought it made sense to let the owner of the ranch where it happened reveal the accident on the local newspaper's Web site Sunday morning.
"I thought that was the right call," Cheney said. "I still do."
Cheney said he agreed that ranch owner Katharine Armstrong should make the story public, because she was an eyewitness, because she grew up on the ranch and because she is "an acknowledged expert in all of this" as a past head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He also agreed with her decision to choose the local newspaper as the way to get the news out.
"I thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as possible from somebody who knew and understood hunting and then it would immediately go up to the wires and be posted on the Web site, which is the way it went out and I thought that was the right call," Cheney said.
"What do you think now?" he was asked.
"I still do," Cheney responded. "The accuracy was enormously important. I had no press person with me."