John O'Neill (political activist)

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John Ellis O'Neill (born February 19, 1946) is a Vietnam War veteran, lawyer, and the spokesman for Swift Vets and POWs for Truth (SBVT).


John O'Neill was born in San Diego, California and grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where he attended Central Catholic Marianist High School.[citation needed] He has stated that his grandfather taught at the United States Naval Academy, that his father was an admiral and a Navy pilot who fought at Iwo Jima, and that he followed his two brothers into the Naval Academy, graduating in 1967.[1]

O'Neill married the former Anne Bradley (1947–2006) in 1976, and has two grown children. He donated a kidney to Anne in February 2004, shortly before becoming involved with SBVT; the book Unfit for Command is dedicated to her.[2]


O'Neill spent 15 months aboard a minesweeper, USS Woodpecker, about three months of which were spent in Vietnamese waters; he served in Vietnam on Swift Boats as part of Coastal Division 13 (3.5 months) and Coastal Division 11 (8 months) from 1969 to 1970, during which time he was awarded two Bronze Stars. [3] Thus, O'Neill appears to have spent a total of about 15 months in or off the coast of Vietnam. He is said to have spent some time in a military hospital with a damaged knee and leg upon returning home,[4] but O'Neill has not claimed, nor do his military records indicate, that the damage was sustained in combat. Therefore, he received no Purple Hearts during his service years.

Some of O'Neill's claims about his length of service in Vietnam conflict with the records of his service there. For example, on several occasions he claimed to have served in Vietnam "almost three years,"[5] [6][7] although his records, as described above, indicate that he actually served no more than about 15 months there. Additionally, he claimed to have served "much" of a two-year period "in waters adjacent to Vietnam",[6] to have served in Coastal Division 11 for one year,[6][7] and to have served 18 months "in the same place" John Kerry served;[7] however, none of these timelines match the above records. Although he wrote that he "took over [Kerry's boat] after he requested early departure,"[8] records indicate that he took command of PCF 94 more than five months after Kerry left Vietnam.

Recruitment by Nixon White House[edit]

O’Neill has stated that he deeply resented John Kerry's 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which, among other things, related controversial testimony about American atrocities given by Vietnam veterans at the earlier Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit.[9]

President Nixon's former special counsel Charles Colson has stated that he recruited O'Neill to be a "counterfoil" to John Kerry.[10] Kerry had come to prominence as part of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and had become a particular target for the White House since his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

O'Neill was at the center of the new organization, Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace, and became a media figure defending the Vietnam War and criticizing opponents of the war. O'Neill first met Kerry during a debate on the Dick Cavett Show on June 20, 1971.[11] O'Neill strongly defended American incursions in Laos and Cambodia, and opposed anti-war veterans. He was particularly critical of claims regarding the commission of war crimes by US military personnel in Vietnam.

Legal career[edit]

After 1971, O'Neill moved out of the media spotlight. He studied law at the University of Texas, graduating first in his class in 1973 and being admitted to the bar in 1974. Appointed to the President's National Advisory Counsel on Supplemental Services and Centers, he served from 1973 to 1974. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist from 1974 to 1975.[12]

O’Neill subsequently returned to Texas to practice law, specializing in commercial litigation. He later co-founded the law firm Clements, O’Neill, Pierce, Wilson, and Fulkerson in Houston. His partners at that firm included, among others, Margaret Wilson, who once served as general counsel for George W. Bush during his time as governor of Texas, and the late Tex Lazar, who once ran for lieutenant governor on the same ticket with Bush and who died in 2003. The firm was recently subsumed into the larger Howrey LLP.[13]

According to his most recent firm resume, in addition to practicing oil and gas litigation, O'Neill obtained one of the largest securities arbitration judgments in history representing a small-time investor who had been defrauded by a large securities company, and also successfully represented a class of immigrants in a suit against Fiesta Savings & Loan, allowing them to recover their money when the savings and loan went under.[14]

Texas Lawyer magazine reported on February 19 and 26, 1990, that O'Neill, who was representing the plaintiffs in a securities fraud class action underlying a malpractice suit, and two other lawyers, were threatened with sanctions for allegedly violating the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility by the judge in the case, United States District Judge David Hittner, who declined to pursue the matter after the trial was completed.

In 1991, O'Neill was considered by President George H. W. Bush for nomination as a federal judge in Texas, but was passed over.[9]

Swift Boat Veterans[edit]

O'Neill stated that he turned down several requests over the years, including some from Kerry's electoral opponents, to resume his attacks upon Kerry. However, he returned to the fore in 2004 as a cofounder of a new organization, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, later known as Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, and he is listed as the co-author, with conservative Jerome Corsi, of the book Unfit For Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. O'Neill stated that his main reason for resuming the activities was that Kerry was running for the office of President of the United States, the Commander in Chief of the US armed forces. All of O'Neill's allegations against Kerry were subsequently proven to be false. After Kerry lost the election, O'Neill stated that he planned to return to private life. However, he continues to make some public appearances and give public interviews.[15][16]

Political contributions and activities[edit]

O'Neill has stated that he considers himself a "political independent."[17] He has stated that he voted for Al Gore in 2000, and Ross Perot in 1996 and also in 1992, but records indicate he donated to the 1992 Bush-Quayle primary campaign.[9][18] He has stated that he admired Democrat John Edwards during the 2004 Democratic primary but did not claim to have voted for him in that primary. However, with the exception of the 2000 election, he has not claimed to have voted for any Democratic presidential candidate since Hubert Humphrey in 1968. While he told Nixon in 1971 that he had not voted for him in the 1968 election, he seconded Nixon's nomination at the 1972 Republican National Convention.[19] Available records indicate he voted in the Republican state primary in 1998 and has regularly contributed to the Texas Republican Party and to Republican candidates for federal office.[20] None of the available records indicates donations to the state Democratic Party or to any Democratic candidate for federal office. However, O'Neill has claimed to have made large contributions to local Democratic candidates and supported Bill White and Ron Green for the nonpartisan positions of mayor and city councilmember, respectively, of the City of Houston.[21] In this connection, O'Neill's name appears on an endorsement for Bill White.[22]

O'Neill is a director of the conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), co-founded by David Horowitz; the center also publishes the online FrontPage Magazine.[23][24]

O'Neill sent a letter supporting Greg Parke, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Vermont in 2006.[25] He has also endorsed the presidential campaign of Duncan Hunter.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Interview with John O'Neill – Part I". Interview with John O’Neill. Archived from the original on 25 August 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  2. ^ "Anne Bradley O'Neill". Houston Chronicle. 2 December 2006. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "Coastal Squadron One Swift Boat Crew Directory". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Alexander, Rose (April 21, 2004). "The Un-Kerry". National Review. Archived from the original on September 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  5. ^ "Remarks by John Kerry, Member, Vietnam Veterans Against the War & John O'Neill, Member, Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace". April 12, 2004. Archived from the original on 9 June 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c "The Speech John O'Neill Wasn't Allowed to Give". October 22, 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c "John Kerry debates John O'Neill, June 20, 1971 (part 2)". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  8. ^ "Unfit for Office". The Wall Street Journal. May 4, 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  9. ^ a b c Anne E. Kornblut, Globe Staff (August 25, 2004). "For Kerry detractor O'Neill, the feelings still run deep". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  10. ^ Michael Dobbs (August 28, 2004). "After Decades, Renewed War On Old Conflict". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  11. ^ "John Kerry debates John O'Neill, June 20, 1971". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  12. ^ "John O'Neill". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  13. ^ "Howrey and Clements, O'Neill Join Forces in Houston". January 5, 2005. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  14. ^ "John E. O'Neill, Partner". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  15. ^ "Restoration Weekend : 2005". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  16. ^ Isaac, David (2005). "Democracy Breaks Out in the Middle East – John O'Neill Interview". The American Enterprise. Archived from the original on 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  17. ^ John O'Neill (August 27, 2004). "We're Not GOP Shills". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  18. ^ "John O'Neill's Federal Campaign Contribution Report". Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  19. ^ "Swift Boaters for Nixon". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  20. ^ "Newsmeat search for Houston, Texas, and John O'Neill". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  21. ^ O'Neill, John E. (2004-08-26). "Book: Unfit for Command". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  22. ^ "Endorsements". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  23. ^ David Horowitz (November 15, 2004). "Mission Accomplished". FrontPage Magazine. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  24. ^ "The Center'S Mission". Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  25. ^ "Friends of Greg Parke". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  26. ^ Chad Groening (April 6, 2007). "Swift Boat Vet supports Duncan Hunter". Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 

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