Sean Hannity defends Fox News against claims of coronavirus misinformation: 'I never called it a hoax’

Victoria Bekiempis in New York
Photograph: AFF-USA/REX/Shutterstock

Fox News host Sean Hannity has hit back against intense criticism of the conservative network’s coronavirus coverage, even claiming in a new interview he was ahead of most media in taking Covid-19 seriously.

Related: How science finally caught up with Trump's playbook – with millions of lives at stake

Hannity’s statements to Newsweek were in response to a 1 April open letter signed by 74 journalism professors and leading journalists that lambasted Fox News for allegedly spreading “misinformation” about the outbreak.

The professors directly cited Hannity’s statement that the Democrats and media overplayed coronavirus to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax”.

The letter came before a report in The Daily Beast that Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan Murdoch, are bracing for lawsuits over the network’s coronavirus coverage.

Asked about his statement that Democrats and the media were using Covid-19 “to bludgeon Trump”, Hannity responded: “Many of them did.”

“We are in the middle of the huge pandemic and where’s the Democrat saying, ‘You know, I didn’t agree with the travel ban at the time, but it was the right decision.’ Politics trumps truth in their world.”

Hannity was referring to Trump’s decision to clamp down on – but not shut down, despite his repeated claims – travel from China as the virus broke out there.

“It’s the same Democrats,” Hannity continued, “media mob and liberal professors who are so lazy they won’t even look at what I’ve said about the virus. They just go with their narrative. I never called it a ‘hoax’.

“I said it was a hoax for them to be using it as a bludgeon on Trump. And they are. [House intelligence chair] Adam Schiff and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi are talking about an investigation. Now? In the middle of a pandemic?”

Hannity also said: “Go to my website and you’ll see irrefutable evidence that I have taken this seriously way before most in the media did. I warned in January that it was dangerous because it was highly contagious, but some people were asymptomatic, so it would spread quickly.”

The professors’ letter, addressed to both Murdochs, claimed: “Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network–false statements downplaying the prevalence of Covid-19 and its harms.”

The professors claimed Fox News offered “misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities”.

The Mediaite website points out that Fox News has taken some actions that seemingly view coronavirus more seriously – with Hannity and other talking heads such as Tucker Carlson appearing in a public service announcement, for example.

On Friday night, Carlson criticized Trump administration infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, over his call for a national stay-at-home mandate.

“More than 10 million Americans have already lost their jobs,” the host said. “Imagine another year of this. That would be national suicide, and yet, that is what Anthony Fauci is suggesting, at least.

“Now, we’re not suggesting that Fauci wants to hurt America. We don’t think he does, he seems like a very decent man. But Fauci is not an economist or for that matter someone who fears being unemployed himself. Like most of the people around him.”