Rove, an influential Republican strategist and former adviser to former President George W. Bush, said Whittington was “a man of enormous integrity and deep compassion” who was called upon by leaders for “important tasks “.
Whittington and others were hunting with Cheney on the sprawling Armstrong Ranch in south Texas on February 11, 2006, when Cheney, while aiming for a bird, struck Whittington, who was 78 at the time. The accident was not made public until the next day when the ranch owner called the local newspaper – the Corpus Christi Caller-Times – and told the paper what had happened.
Cheney has been criticized for breaking a cardinal rule of hunting – that someone holding a gun must make sure they know what they’re shooting at before pulling the trigger – and for not going public immediately what happened.
The accident also spawned countless jokes.
Jay Leno, then host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC, joked that Cheney would capitalize on the accident for the upcoming Valentine’s Day with a new cologne named “Duck.” Billionaire Bill Gates greeted his audience at a conference, saying, “I’m really glad to be here. My other invitation was to go quail hunting with Dick Cheney.
In an interview with Fox News a few days after the crash, Cheney said it was “one of the worst days of my life at that time.”
Cheney said the accident happened after Whittington came out of the hunting party to retrieve a downed bird in full cover. Cheney said Whittington was properly dressed in orange and his upper body was visible, but he was standing in a ravine with the sun behind him.
“You can’t blame anyone else,” Cheney said. “I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.”
Whittington owned a downtown Austin building where many of the state’s GOP power brokers built their empires. Bush used the building for his gubernatorial campaign headquarters, as did former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Rove also had his office there.
Whittington was a longtime player in Texas politics. In 1961 he worked on John Tower’s campaign for the US Senate and later helped a young Bush run for Congress, a race he lost. He was also a trusted man for governors trying to clean up troubled state agencies and spent decades serving on state boards.
Rove said Whittington not only served his community in countless ways, but was also “a huge source of great advice and mentorship for dozens,” including himself.
“He was an amazing human being, and to be remembered as a victim of a hunting accident irks me,” Rove said.