Nonverbal and Rhetorical Analysis of Dick Cheney shooting incident on Fox News

On January 1st of 1982, my boyfriend was shot in a hunting accident. He lost 37 pints of blood in less than 24 hours. His survival was a medical miracle. I am very passionate about proper hunting practices and taking responsibility for actions.

As a body language expert and media and political coach I am passionate about speaking with honesty and credibility. I discussed in a previous post how delay in speaking was a nonverbal communicator let me explore the actual interview.

In a televised interview granted exclusively to Fox News Channel, four days after the shooting, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke. He was looking down and to the right before making his main statements. When people look down and the right they are accessing their kinesthetic (feeling/body sense) and they usually have more skin color. Cheney, however, was very pale and drawn. They generally have a lower, slower voice tone which Cheney maintained through the interview. They gesture down by their middle or stomach; point to their heart or put their hand over their heart. Cheney did not gesture. They breathe low and deep in the abdomen... Cheney seemed to have trouble breathing. Cheney seemed emotional, but the emotions were about his pain rather than empathetic pain for his injured friend. That is even more apparent as Cheney discusses it as one of the worst days of his life. I imagine it was the single worst day of the guy he shot, his friend Harry’s life.

As he looked down and to the right he said, "Ultimately, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry”. In a Rhetorical Analysis I am immediately struck by how long it took him to get to the admission. It sounds like that children’s nursery rhyme that goes;

This is the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

Look at the limiters he used, ultimately, pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. His first and most important sentence should have been something like, "I shot Harry". Not, “I pulled the trigger, that shot the round…that milked the cow. That lay in the house that Jack Built..."

He then says again looking down and to the right, "And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line". He starts with a condition, then says. "..but that’s the bottom line." He shouldn’t have even discussed the conditions in that way. He could have made a statement of facts. That is, told the story in a factual way and said the conditions, but saying it this way made it sound like he thought the conditions were, in fact an excuse.

He had a beer at lunch, hunters should not drink. The risk is too high for accidents. Drinking affects your body language. Cheney said. "It was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else." This seems like an almost bizarre statement isolated from the factual story. And if you know hunting rules, it is always the shooter's fault. Whittington went to retrieve a bird and then walked toward Cheney without announcing his presence. But, Cheney, if he followed hunting rules, should have noted that a hunting partner is out in the shooting target range. A State Parks and Wildlife Department report concluded: "While he was out of the hunting line, another covey was flushed and Cheney swung on a bird and fired, striking Whittington," about 30 yards away. That’s incredibly close. "I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second saw Harry standing there. Didn't know he was there", Cheney said. "I saw him fall, basically. It had happened so fast."

In the Chicago Tribune yesterday, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania was quoted as saying, “… Cheney's violation of the basic rule that a hunter verify the target and what is beyond it before pulling the trigger, as well as his lack of a $7 unpaid bird stamp on his Texas hunting license."

My friend Shane was shot by a young boy who was handed a gun, and in fact held a gun for the first time on that day. The boy was given three minutes of instruction. The boy did not know how to shoot responsibly. Obviously Cheney made a lot of mistakes in his dissemination of the information about the shooting, but the true mistake, the thing that matters, is he was irresponsible in his hunting and shot his friend.