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Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has a history of mocking 'dumb ass' masks; now he faces Delta Air Lines ban for not wearing one

A deputy editor for the New York Times went after Robert O'Neill, claiming the Navy SEAL is 'not willing to sacrifice'

Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

Former Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill, who has been credited as the person who killed Osama Bin Laden in a 2011 raid, faces a potential ban by Delta Air Lines after he posted a photo of him not wearing a face mask on a recent flight.

In a since-deleted tweet, O'Neill proudly shared a photo of himself on a commercial airplane where he was not wearing a face mask, which has been mandatory on Delta Air Lines since May and enforced since June.

O'Neill captioned the photo: "I'm not a p***y."

There is a man in the background wearing a United States Marine Corps hat, and many Twitter commenters accused O'Neill of disparaging the man with the USMC hat.

New York Times deputy editor Dan Saltzstein replied, "I don't know this guy but: counterpoint, you might just be because you're not willing to sacrifice and be a little uncomfortable for your fellow humans (including that marine behind you)!"

Saltzstein said he deleted the tweet "because I broke my own rule about name-calling." He added, "I honor O'Neill for his sacrifices to his country and his heroism. It's sad that he can't extend the same for the safety of his fellow passengers."

O'Neill responded, "This was not a dig at the Marine behind me. I love Marines."

The former SEAL Team Six member's original tweet was deleted. O'Neill claimed that his wife deleted the polarizing tweet.

O'Neill added, "I am not the bad guy. I killed the bad guy."

Actress turned activist Alyssa Milano reprimanded O'Neill for not wearing a face mask.

"You do realize you may be a-symptomatic and give the virus to other people that could potentially kill them," she wrote. "I think that makes you a sociopath. Besides, p***ies are actually so strong that we can deliver human beings out of them. Please, I'm begging you, wear a damn mask."

A Delta Air Lines spokesperson told the Intercept that O'Neill might face a ban for not wearing a mask.

"We're aware of this customer's tweet and are reviewing this event," the spokesperson said. "All customers who don't comply with our mask-wearing requirement risk losing their ability to fly Delta in the future. Medical research tells us that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate."

Delta Air Lines has banned anti-maskers from taking flights. The carrier's CEO, Ed Bastian, said the company had placed over 100 people on its "no-fly list" because they didn't adhere to the face mask mandate.

"We've been steadily and rather aggressively stepping up our enforcement of the mask policy," Bastian said on "Today" in late July. "You cannot board a Delta plane unless you have a mask on. If you board the plane and insist on not wearing a mask, we insist that you do not fly Delta into the future. We already have 100 people put onto that list."

O'Neill said the photo was an "attempt at a joke" that "did NOT go over well." He also said that he does wear a mask.

In an Instagram post from late June, O'Neill and his wife Jessica are seen wearing face masks in an airplane. The caption reads: "The airline makes them mandatory. We make them f***ing cool."

In the past, O'Neill has voiced his skepticism of the effectiveness of face masks against COVID-19.

O'Neill shared a study that found that bandanas and neck gaiters could be more harmful than not wearing a mask at all.

"'Mask' is easier to say than 'Placebo,'" he wrote in June.

On June 28, O'Neill tweeted, "I'm on a @SouthwestAir flight right now. They just announced, 'Facemasks must be worn at all times unless you're actively eating or drinking.' Wow. Thanks for keeping the sheep safe!"

"There are now stores with mirrors next to face-masks so you can try them on and see how you look. Let that sink in," O'Neill wrote last week.

Also last week, the former Navy SEAL said, "You know that s**t you're wearing on your face is novelty, right?"

"I know more about biological warfare than most of you. We were trained. These dumb ass masks do nothing. Nothing," O'Neill wrote in a since-deleted tweet.

"China told you to wear a mask. Look down … you're wearing a mask. I'm not," O'Neill claimed in a since-deleted tweet.

"I shook thousands of hands and gave thousands of hugs this week," O'Neill said on Wednesday. "I flew on some planes. I'll be alive next week."

"I'm not afraid of the mob," he said on Wednesday. "Come get some."

A spokesperson for O'Neill did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Intercept.

Comedian and UFC color commentator Joe Rogan received similar backlash in June after he declared that wearing face masks is "for bitches."

"Because that's what men do, we make fun of things. Anything," Rogan explained. "Anything that seems like you're not taking chances. And that's what the mask is."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the use of cloth face masks can help slow the spread of coronavirus.

"We are not defenseless against COVID-19," CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said. "Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities."

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