On July 22, Sean Hannity went on a long radio rant denying that he ever recommended his viewers get the vaccine. He later repeated himself on his Fox show.
This endorsement of vaccine hesitancy messaging from Hannity came after days of positive mainstream press for the Fox News host. Following a viral out-of-context tweet, reports in places like Politico Playbook, The Atlantic, The New York Times, NPR, and The Week framed pieces around Hannity supposedly endorsing the vaccines, even though he never did any such thing. The funniest version of this was the Fox News version, which was never shared to any of its social accounts, per Crowdtangle. (The former Republican governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, shared the piece and lauded Hannity, writing, “Thank you, Sean Hannity. Vaccines work and they will save lives.”)
CNN host Alisyn Camerota, Hannity's former colleague at Fox, waxed poetically on multiple occasions about Hannity endorsing vaccines. Other outlets, like The Washington Post, Vox, and The Associated Press, correctly noted that Hannity’s acknowledgment of vaccine science was immediately preceded and followed by anti-vaccine segments. (Longtime Hannity watchers know what a real change of position from him looks like.)
If this media cycle sounds familiar, it’s because mainstream outlets had the exact same “new tone” problem with Trump, suggesting over and over, incorrectly, that he was changing his approach. Now the cliche is deployed for Trump’s henchman, to the same results.
Interestingly, Hannity’s anti-vax radio remarks came in response to anti-vax criticism of Hannity from the generic right-wing content mill of radio host Wayne Dupree, a Sandy Hook truther who has falsely claimed that the parents of a Sandy Hook victim were “actors” and the shooting was a “hoax.”
So, not only does Hannity distance himself from the vaccines, but he’s doing so to appease a far-right conspiracy theorist who has written about crisis actors. Why is Hannity acting like this? Because he’s scared.
Recall that Hannity is the comparatively responsible one about vaccines on Fox News prime-time shows. And the Murdoch/vaccine problem isn’t even limited to North America!
Next time, don’t listen to Fox News’ PR spin. Just listen to what Fox hosts say.
From Hannity's radio show:
From Hannity's Fox News show:
Language has been updated for clarity.
Correction (7/26/21): This piece has been updated to reflect that Hannity's remarks were made on July 22.