Inside Fox News, the project had a codename: Gatewood, after a U.S. army commander who helped capture Geronimo in 1886.
It’s also the word believed to be used to confirm go-ahead with the final step of a plan to kill terrorist Osama bin Laden in 2011, and that bore even more relevance to the Fox News effort, which is expected to culminate Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. eastern. At that time, Fox News will pre-empt the hours normally devoted to host Sean Hannity and correspondent Peter Doocy will instead present the first of two hours of “The Man Who Killed Usama bin Laden,” a documentary devoted to Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims to have delivered the shot that ended bin Laden’s life.
“There is something remarkable about finally looking at this guy on the screen, and to know that he is the last person to have seen bin Laden alive,” Doocy said in an interview Friday.
Before Fox News can get its show on the air, however, a number of competing news outlets have attempted to jump on its scoop. The Washington Post last week identified O’Neill by name, something that had not been done before (an Esquire profile of the man in 2013 referred to him simply as “the shooter”). CNN, which has been spotlighting use of documentary series in primetime, attempted to get in on the action Friday night during Anderson Cooper’s primetime show by using interviews O’Neill gave to freelance reporter Alex McQuade.
Fox News still has an ace in the hole, says Doocy: “He sat down with only us on camera, and all the cloudy details out there now will be cleared up.”
The correspondent offered only scant detail about the program during the conversation, the better, perhaps, to whet anticipation for the show, which is likely to fuel new controversy over whether military personnel engaged in some of the nation’s most critically important national-security initiatives ought to be recognized for their service.
Another member of the SEAL team that dispatched bin Laden, Matt Bissonnette, has come under legal scrutiny since publishing a book about his account of the fatal raid on bin Laden’s home. In various press interviews, several SEAL members have scoffed at the recent disclosures about the bin Laden raid, suggesting publicity goes against the code and spirit embraced by this branch of the nation’s armed forces. “I don’t want to tease too much but we do address that in the special,” says Doocy. “He describes the thought process – what changed his mind that made him want to go public in such a big way?”
The story marks a big “get” for Doocy, who joined Fox News Channel in 2009 and worked his way from a general assignment reporter in New York City to a spot in Washington, D.C. He has covered everything from Hurricane Sandy and the healthcare rollout to the Sandy Hook school shooting and Boston Marathon bombing. His father, Steve, is a longtime host of “Fox & Friends,” the network’s morning program.
Doocy says he was introduced through a third party to O’Neill “not too long after the raid happened, and he and I built up a relationship over time. In the middle of the summer, when he was ready to tell his story, he trusted us and he said, ‘I’m ready to do this and sit down on camera.’ We spent a lot of time this summer.”
Doocy says Fox News reached out to “a lot of sources for this story” to check facts. “Based on all the reporting we did, everyone we talked to – who would know – says that Rob is the guy who fired the shot.”