By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 25, 2008
The homeless pedestrian who was struck by a car driven by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak said in a radio interview yesterday that he is "doing fine," recovering from a dislocated shoulder, and voiced surprise and amusement that the prominent political pundit was at the wheel of the Chevrolet Corvette that hit him.
"Bob Novak is the one that hit me?" said 86-year-old Don Clifford Liljenquist, sounding astonished when WMAL (630 AM) reporter Troy Russell told him that the driver was Novak. "Well, everybody knows who Bob Novak is! He's a famous journalist! . . . I was struck by Bob Novak? . . . Well, I think that makes it a great story!"
Novak, 77, whose column appears in The Washington Post, has said that he did not know he hit Liljenquist until a bicyclist stopped him a short distance from the site of Wednesday morning's incident, at 18th and K Streets NW. Speaking to the radio station by phone from his room at George Washington University Medical Center, Liljenquist did not dispute Novak's account.
"Yeah, it's possible that he didn't know he hit me," Liljenquist said. "The vehicle was moving at 10 miles per hour or something like that, and the driver might not have seen me, because I rolled off and fell down to the pavement. So, yeah, it's possible that he didn't see me. He wasn't paying attention to his driving."
Witnesses said Novak was driving his black 2004 Corvette convertible north on 18th near K when he struck Liljenquist, who was walking across 18th. David Bono, who was bicycling to his law office, said Liljenquist "went up on the hood, up on the windshield" and "rolled off the hood and landed on the street."
Liljenquist, a resident of a homeless shelter, largely confirmed Bono's account, though he repeatedly used a garbled word to describe a part of the Corvette.
"I had the right of way," he said. "But an automobile was approaching on K Street. He just kept going. . . . His bumper run under me. And I did a maneuver. I rolled across his . . ."
He paused, until Russell finally said, "The hood of his car?"
Liljenquist continued, "Across his [unintelligible] and then fell down to the pavement."
Bono and others said in interviews that they think Novak was attempting to flee the scene before Bono stopped him, but Novak said he did not know he had hit a pedestrian until Bono told him.
In any case, when D.C. police arrived, Novak's car was stopped on the service road beside K Street, about a block from where Liljenquist was hit, so Novak was not charged with leaving the scene. An officer issued him a $50 traffic citation accusing him of failing to yield to a pedestrian. Police initially misspelled Liljenquist's name and mistakenly gave his age as 66.
As for Liljenquist's injuries, a Washington Post reporter went to his hospital room yesterday and saw him sitting on the side of his bed, his gray hair falling to his shoulders, talking with social workers. A relative said Liljenquist did not want to be interviewed.
Later, though, on WMAL, he said: "The doctors reset my shoulder. I'm doing fine. . . . I'm a pretty tough guy, you know. And when I saw I was being hit, I rolled with the punch. I used my training in judo to roll with the punch."
He did not answer definitively when asked whether he is contemplating legal action against Novak.
"He's a very good reporter," Liljenquist said. "But as a driver, he wasn't paying attention."