A little over a week ago, the New York Times ran a disgusting piece that all but outright accused Fox News opinion show host Sean Hannity of being responsible for the death of a man who was allegedly “skeptical” about Wuhan coronavirus claims but who then died from it a few weeks after he took an early March cruise.
To quickly recap: Brooklyn bar owner Joe Joyce, 74, departed on a cruise with his family on March 1st. The paper claimed his daughter said Joyce “watched Fox, and believed [the virus] was under control.” The NYT inferred from the relative’s claim that Joyce had listened to comments made by Hannity about the virus, comments the paper originally did not note Hannity had actually made on March 9th, which was over a week after the family went on their cruise. They stealth edited their report to note this after the fact.
What made the story even worse was the fact that Ginia Bellafante, who wrote the piece, herself downplayed the threat from the virus as late as February 27th on her Twitter feed.
Fast forward to this week, and Hannity has lowered the boom on the paper, demanding they issue a retraction or face legal action:
“We write concerning the New York Times’ blatant and outrageous disregard for the truth in mischaracterizing Mr. Hannity’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and blaming him for the tragic death of Joe Joyce,” Hannity’s attorney, Charles Harder, wrote in a letter sent on Monday.
“You have acted with actual malice in publishing the foregoing statements. As detailed herein, it was readily apparent at the time of publication that Mr. Hannity had devoted substantial, truthful coverage to the coronavirus, and his remarks attributed by you were made eight days after Mr. Joyce had already embarked on his cruise,” read the letter from Hannity’s legal counsel.
It adds, “Moreover, you were fully aware that this was the actual timeline, and in order to mislead your readers and support your false narrative, you withheld the date of Mr. Hannity’s comments from your story.”
Read the full letter here, which also documents the number of times Hannity talked about how serious the pandemic is.
The Times has responded, stating they will not apologize because they believe they have nothing to apologize for:
“The columns are accurate, do not reasonably imply what you and Mr. Hannity allege they do, and constitute protected opinion,” Times legal counsel David E. McCraw wrote to Hannity’s lawyer, Charles Harder.
“In response to your request for an apology and retraction, our answer is no,” the letter said.
I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know what standing if any Hannity has here but I’ll be very interested to see what steps he and his attorneys take next to try and get the paper to admit they got it wrong.
The New York Times and just about every other national news media outlet including the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC have been on a “blame Fox News” mission for weeks now, suggesting Fox News’s reporting that allegedly “downplayed” the virus contributed to the Wuhan virus infection rate and death toll.
Some Democrats including Clintonista Joe Lockhart have gone so far as to say the network could face legal liability over their coverage. A Washington state non-profit even filed a lawsuit against Fox News earlier this month, claiming a man died after watching their coverage.
The irony here is that if that lawsuit were to be successful against Fox News, that would open the floodgates for the likes of CNN, MSNBC, and others to be sued for the times they actually did downplay the threat from the virus.
In any event, Hannity, of course, has used his program to fight back against the smears, running video montages of his hypocritical critics and their remarks about the virus from January, February, and early March.