Far-Right Fox News host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity spent weeks dismissing the threat posed by the virus that would eventually kill thousands of Americans and leave millions more unemployed.
Despite calling the threat of the virus a "hoax" and likening it to Democratic impeachment efforts, Hannity now insists that he never dismissed the virus at all.
The New York Times, a favorite target of President Donald Trump and his allies, mentioned Hannity's dismissals in an April 18 profile of Joe Joyce—a Fox News fan and bar owner who embarked on a cruise early in March, despite warnings from his kids of the looming virus. Joyce eventually died of the virus upon returning.
The article stated:
"Early in March Sean Hannity went on air proclaiming that he didn't like the way that the American people were getting scared 'unnecessarily.' He saw it all, he said, 'as like, let's bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.' Eventually, Fox changed course and took the virus more seriously, but the Joyces were long gone by then."
An op-ed in the Times from March 31 entitled Fox's Fake News Contagion called out Hannity directly, saying:
"Some people are suggesting that there might be grounds for legal action against the cable network that you pretty much rule — Fox News — because you and your colleagues dished out dangerous misinformation about the virus in the early days of the crisis in the United States. Some might allege that they have lost loved ones because of what was broadcast by your news organization."
Unsurprisingly, Hannity is none too pleased with the reporting of facts and the publishing of opinions critiquing him. He hired celebrity lawyer Charles Harder to demand a retraction and apology.
Harder sent a lengthy letter to the Times' general counsel, as well as the authors of the critical pieces, stating:
"We write concerning the New York Times' blatant and outrageous disregard for the truth in mischaracterizing Mr. Hannity's coverage of the ... pandemic and blaming him for the tragic death of Joe Joyce. ... The April 18, 2020 Story is one of many instances of your ongoing campaign to personally attack Mr. Hannity by mischaracterizing and making false statements with respect to his coverage of the ... pandemic."
The Times was quick to respond.
NEW: @seanhannity threatened to sue @nytimes for libel over our coverage of his comments on coronavirus. NYT says:… https://t.co/oWtf2AmcNS— Cliff Levy (@Cliff Levy)1588085229.0
Harder's letter was 12 pages long, but the response from the the paper's newsroom lawyer David McCraw was terse:
"I write in response to your 12-page letter alleging that your client Sean Hannity was defamed by three columns in The New York Times.
The columns are accurate, do not reasonably imply what you and Mr. Hannity allege they do, and constitute protected opinion.
In response to your request for an apology and retraction, our answer is 'no.'"
People applauded the statement.
Nothing elevates my mood like reading a David McCraw letter, honestly. https://t.co/pNNGjbDWho— Taffy Brodesser-Akner (@Taffy Brodesser-Akner)1588085067.0
The first time a lawyer has not used 10 pages when 1 will do. https://t.co/9uWXisZ6gv— scary lawyerguy (@scary lawyerguy)1588085131.0
Your beautiful poem of the day. https://t.co/v3RGMMrCMJ— Joe Hagan (@Joe Hagan)1588085190.0
This is A perfect letter. https://t.co/QR59EMQeh4— Tim (@Tim)1588086289.0
McCraw's brevity is appreciated https://t.co/TdjoTq4vMY— Christopher Burgess (@Christopher Burgess)1588085310.0
Others say it's Hannity and Fox News who should face litigation.
I'm for free speech but outrights lying speech was addressed is Supreme Court Justice Holmes's opinion ("falsely sh… https://t.co/7KGrXyZRPJ— Mike Boudreau (@Mike Boudreau)1587750328.0
Fox deserves to have to face its role in this https://t.co/F5LLeulVxf— David Anthony Hill (@David Anthony Hill)1587733365.0
See you in court Hannity. Thousands will sue you. Hope FoxNews covers the legal fees. Can’t wait for the discovery!! https://t.co/7SoySKC3HF— Billy Baldwin (@Billy Baldwin)1588041689.0
For a deeper look into misinformation from Fox News's most visible figures, check out Foxocracy, available here.