UPDATE, 9:50 AM: Approximately 3.370 million people watched Part 2 of Fox News Channel’s The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden last night, 586,000 viewers in the news demo, according to early stats. The second night of the two-part special stands as FNC’s most-watched special in its history.
PREVIOUS, Wednesday PM: Part 1 of Fox News Channel’s The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden snagged 2.697 million viewers yesterday at 10 PM. That’s the network’s most-watched 10 PM hour in 2014, excluding its State of the Union Address coverage and midterm election night. The crowd watching FNC was bigger than that of CNN, MSNBC and HLN combined in the hour. The program also snagged the biggest demo crowd — 532,000 — for the day.
That said, it was not the night’s most watched cable program. It finished behind Nick’s SpongeBob SquarePants (2.727 million), FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor (3.2 million) and the night’s most watched cable program: FX’s Sons Of Anarchy (4.38 million), which is nearing its series run.
Who knows how much bigger a crowd might have tuned in to the special, in which Fox News said it would reveal the identity of the man who killed bin Laden, had Robert O’Neill’s former peers not pre-empted the big reveal ahead of the broadcast to protest his account of the mission and his decision to go public. FNC announced on October 29 it would debut The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden, on November 11 and 12, describing it as an exclusive interview with the Navy SEAL who fired the shots that killed the terrorist leader. FNC promised the man’s identity would be revealed and he would describe events leading up to and during the raid on May 1st, 2011.
That did not sit well with O’Neill’s former colleagues who, on October 31, outed him on SOFREP — Special Operations Forces Situation Report — a web site run by former special-forces operatives. In a Halloween-day post, SOFREP revealed O’Neill’s name preemptively and nicked him for his decision to do the upcoming FNC interview. In the post, the commander and master chief of the Navy Special Warfare Command wrote of O’Neill, like he meant it to sting, that a “critical” tenet of their profession is to “not advertise the nature” of their work “nor seek recognition for my action.”
“We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety or financial gain,” the letter said, as published in the post.
The Washington Post, which also appeared to have been part of O’Neill’s coming-out strategy, and likewise was sandbagged by SOFREP, published a piece six days later, saying the former Navy SEAL had “revealed himself” to the publication as the shooter who killed bin Laden, being the first “to tumble through the doorway of bin Laden’s bedroom that night, taking aim at the terrorist leader as he stood in darkness behind his youngest wife.”
“In an account later confirmed by two other SEALs, the Montana native described firing the round that hit bin Laden squarely in the forehead, killing him instantly,” WaPo reported.
CNN also got into the act, reporting November 7 that O’Neill was “one of the shooters in bin Laden’s room, and that others in the military community wondered whether O’Neill actually can claim to have killed bin Laden, since there were at least two others in the room who fired weapons. CNN also wondered in this, and subsequent reports before FNC’s special, did it “even really matter who shot bin Laden since the SEAL raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan was so clearly a team effort.”
CNN also noted O’Neill had previously revealed all the details of the mission to Esquire magazine in 2013, but did not let them publish his name — he was identified as “the Shooter.”
Another member of the secretive SEAL Team 6, which executed the bin Laden raid, told CNN the story of the Shooter that O’Neill presented in Esquire was “complete BS”, CNN reported.
O’Neill was seen last night telling Fox News’ Peter Doocy that, as a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6, he had previously been a part of such missions as the rescue of the crew of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirate — depicted in the movie Captain Phillips.
In last night’s special, O’Neill described to Peter Doocy how he discovered he was embarking on the mission to kill bin Laden: “They told us a couple of things like we’re going to read you in eventually and here’s who’s going to be there…and they said a few names that didn’t make sense,” O’Neill said. “A few of us were talking a couple days later about this person, this person, why would they be there… It’s bin Laden…they found him…we’re going to go get him.” O’Neill claimed he was “definitely” the last person bin Laden saw before he died.
Part 2 of FNC’s special debuts tonight at 10 PM ET.