Robert O’Neill, the SEAL, will appear at a “historic weekend” at the Amangani Resort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in June hosted by the ForAmerica organization, invitations said. It was billed as “A Special Weekend with Robert O’Neill, the Man who Shot Osama bin Laden,” and promised time with him in clay, pistol and “machine gun fun” shooting competitions.
The Washington Post’s Checkpoint blog published details about the event Friday, drawing criticism from those who found it crass or at odds with the ethos of elite Special Operations troops, who often pride themselves on being quiet professionals. A spokesman for O’Neill said at the time that he was appearing as a favor for a friend, and the ForAmerica group did not respond to requests for comment.
On Sunday, Brent Bozell, the founder of ForAmerica, said in a statement that his team “got a little ahead of itself” in putting out the invitation.
“Rob never saw the invitation that was sent out by our staff, something that should have occurred and for which I take full responsibility,” Bozell said. “We deeply regret that the invitation described Mr. O’Neill in a way that is inconsistent with the high standards he applies when he characterizes the service of Navy SEALS to our country. There will be no machine guns involved; this is strictly a sport shooting event.”
Bozell added that ForAmerica wants to honor the military and back O’Neill’s charity, Your Grateful Nation, which provides support to Special Operations veterans who are transitioning out of the military.
“It is our intention to introduce Rob to a whole new community of supporters to advance his tremendous charity work to help his military brothers and sisters,” Bozell said.
O’Neill said in a statement released through a publicist on Sunday that he thinks “the confusion over my participation in the ForAmerica event has now been clarified.”
“I will continue to work hard to raise awareness about important causes related to military families,” he said.
The invitation that ForAmerica says it did not seek O’Neill’s approval for looked like this, in part:
An April 20 letter sent to ForAmerica donors and signed by Bozell included similar language in prompting the fundraiser.
“It will be a rare opportunity to meet one of our nation’s most legendary heroes,” Bozell said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “A person who will go down with John Paul Jones, Joshua Chamberlain, Alvin York, Chesty Puller and others who have uniquely distinguished themselves as champions in defense of our nation.”
Bozell added that the fundraiser is designed to be casual and informal.
“At this event, there will be ample opportunity to meet and get to know this remarkable elite warrior, hear his first-hand account of not only the bin Laden raid, but also many other daring exploits,” Bozell wrote. “Did you know that he was involved in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates? As a member of SEAL Team 6, Rob is a member of the elite of the elites of our military. His stories will amaze you.”
Here is the letter, redacted to maintain security at the event:
Bozell, a conservative commentator, founded ForAmerica in 2009. It received nearly $4.9 million in contributions in 2012, and $2.5 million in 2013, according to tax documents.
Adam Goldman contributed to this report.