The former member of the U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 who says he killed Osama bin Laden has joined the chorus of critics refuting Seymour Hersh’s controversial report challenging the White House account of the 2011 operation.
“When I was first sent this article, I thought it was a joke,” Rob O’Neill told Fox News on Monday night. “This thing is so ludicrous it’s almost an insult to the word ludicrous. For someone who wasn’t there to say stuff that I saw happen … it’s a comedy.”
O’Neill took particular issue with Hersh’s allegation that there was no firefight during the nighttime raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“Well I’m sure that my friends who got shot at and almost took a few bullets in the face through the doors would disagree,” O’Neill said. “I saw Osama bin Laden standing on two feet, there were no [Inter-Services Intelligence] up there. I shot him in the head twice, and then I shot him again in the face while he was on the ground.”
O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who last year revealed himself as the source behind Esquire’s 2013 story detailing the killing of the terror leader, stood by President Barack Obama’s account of the operation.
“The story that our president put out is the truth,” O’Neill said. “Everything that we said we did, we did.”
President Obama announcing the death of Osama bin Laden. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
The White House slammed Hersh’s account on Monday, calling his report “baseless.”
“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact-check each one,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “The notion that the operation that killed [bin Laden] was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false.”
On Monday night, NBC News published a report that seemed to support at least one part of Hersh’s story: that a “walk-in” to a CIA office in Pakistan tipped the United States off to bin Laden’s whereabouts.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell called the revelation “irrelevant.”
“Look, what I don’t know is whether somebody did walk in and say, ‘I know where he is,’” Morell said on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday. “But I can guarantee you that any information given to us by a walk-in with regard to bin Laden — and there were probably a lot of people who walked in and said, ‘I know where he is’ — that was completely irrelevant.
“The story of trailing — finding the courier, trailing the courier, finding the compound — that’s the story of what happened,” he said.
“The Pakistanis did not know,” Morell said on “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “The president made a decision not to tell the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis were furious with us. The president sent me to Pakistan after the raids to try to start smoothing things over.”
On Tuesday, David Axelrod, Obama’s former top adviser, said he was “deeply skeptical” of Hersh’s reporting.
“This report by all accounts is just plain wrong,” Axelrod said on CNN. “I wasn’t in the White House at the time of the raid, but after the raid, I talked to many of the people who were involved in that, and nothing that they told me jibes with what he said. So I’m very dismissive of that report.”
Axelrod was asked if it was possible that Pakistan officials knew where bin Laden was, as Hersh’s story claims.
“It may be possible that they knew where he was,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that that information was shared, and it certainly doesn’t mean that America was working with them on this raid.”