VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The controversial former Navy SEAL who claims he fired the fatal shot at Osama Bin Laden, came back to Virginia Beach Monday. Rob O’Neill was the keynote speaker at a leadership conference at Regent University.
News cameras were not allowed to film O’Neill’s appearance Monday, and WAVY.com was also not allowed to interview him because of an exclusive deal he signed with FOX News. In a special called “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden,” O’Neill will talk about his role in the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but it’s a story some say shouldn’t be told.
“He’s an inspirational guy, a hero, and I think people are going to be very interested in his story,” public relations rep. Mike Russell said of O’Neill. O’Neill hired Russell to help him field media calls, since the FOX News announcement.
O’Neill did not share with the crowd at Regent the story he shared with FOX News. Instead, he gave a well-rehearsed speech about leadership, teamwork, and his other experiences as a SEAL leader.
“He was fabulous,” said Carole Kaprutus, one of the paying audience members at the luncheon. “A real, real opportunity to hear someone like him speak, it was an honor and a privilege to be here.”
O’Neill now makes a living giving leadership speeches to crowds around the country. A Regent spokesperson explained O’Neill was hired months ago, before FOX News announced it’s exclusive interview. He spoke as part of school’s Executive Leadership Series. The audience, made up of business and community leaders, ate it up.
“Very motivating, definitely proud to be an American, if we have people like that defending our freedom,” said audience member Tavis Meredith. “It was definitely a worthwhile hour and a half spent, for sure.”
But not everyone is excited about what O’Niell has to say. Special Warfare leaders recently sent Sailors a letter, reminding them not to spill the beans on classified information for personal gain — something they say goes against the SEAL Ethos.
Two retired Sailors in Monday’s crowd had differing opinions on the issues.
“He gave too much information, as far as some of the operational aspects of it, but nothing classified,” said Tony Bankhead, a retired Chief Petty Officer.
John Andrews, who spent 30 years in the Navy before retiring, disagrees: “All the nonsense of who can profit from what, he’s got an absolute right to make a living, as does everyone else. He served honorably and away we go,” Andrews told WAVY.com.
WAVY.com tried to ask Mike Russell if O’Neill was paid by FOX News, and if so, how much. We also wanted to know what O’Neill would say to his critics, but Russell explained those were questions best left for O’Neill to address, once his exclusivity agreement with FOX News ends Wednesday night.