How Fox’s Sean Hannity has downplayed the coronavirus pandemic in America
Fox News host Sean Hannity has stood out among the network's many misinformers about the coronavirus pandemic. From encouraging viewers to try unproven treatments to downplaying the lethality of coronavirus compared to other diseases to defending President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, Hannity has downplayed coronavirus dozens of times on his Fox and radio programs over the past month.
Fox’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has been abysmal -- and dangerous. Fox Business fired prime-time host Trish Regan less than a month after she ranted that Trump’s opponents were using the disease as “yet another attempt to impeach the president.” Tucker Carlson has become the face of the network’s racist attempt to rebrand coronavirus as the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus in some twisted effort to deflect attention from Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. Fox’s news anchors and medical commentators have also contributed to the network’s spread of misinformation. And Hannity, who has at least twice interviewed the president about the coronavirus and even appeared in a Fox News public service announcement on the issue, has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in numerous ways.
On March 9, Hannity suggested that young, healthy Americans have no reason to fear coronavirus and claimed people were faking concern about it to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax,” echoing a comment Trump had made at a rally in late February. Two days later on his radio program, Hannity promoted a conspiracy theory about the “deep state” allegedly using coronavirus to manipulate the public. But these are just two of the most egregious things Hannity has said about coronavirus; taken as a whole, his commentary falls into six discernible themes: peddling unproven treatments, comparing COVID-19 to other illnesses or focusing on other ways people can die, defending Trump’s response to the pandemic, blaming the media and journalists, downplaying supply shortages, and attacking local and congressional responses.
Hannity downplayed the dangers of coronavirus by peddling unproven treatments
- On March 18, Hannity began touting the potential uses of chloroquine for COVID-19 and asked a panel of doctors whether the drug could be used prophylactically. (Evidence for the drug’s effectiveness against coronavirus is reportedly very weak.)
- On his March 19 radio show, Hannity suggested vaping prevents people from getting coronavirus.
- On March 19, he praised Trump’s focus on chloroquine as well as hydroxychloroquine and misled about who was involved in a study of the drugs’ effectiveness on coronavirus.
- Also on March 19, Hannity told Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma that he personally would use the drugs Trump promoted if he had COVID-19.
- On the same day, Hannity told listeners of his radio show that he would be “all over” these drugs if he had COVID-19.
- On March 20, Hannity forgot the name “hydroxychloroquine” while exaggerating its proven effectiveness in treating COVID-19 and encouraged listeners with symptoms to stock up on the drug.
- During a March 23 interview with Vice President Mike Pence, Hannity read him a letter from an unidentified doctor detailing a drug “regimen” the doctor claims prevents coronavirus deaths.
- On March 24, Hannity pushed unproven drugs to fight coronavirus: “What are the risks? They seem minimal.”
- On his March 24 radio program, Hannity said, “I’m not a doctor” but “I’m interested” in hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat coronavirus.
- On March 25, Hannity hosted Dr. Mehmet Oz to advocate the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus.
- On March 31, Hannity again advocated the use of unproven drugs in an interview with Oz, saying they have “shown everywhere I read, tremendous, tremendous opportunities to treat people to prevent death.”
Hannity misleadingly compared coronavirus to less deadly diseases and downplayed it by talking about other ways people can die
- During a March 4 interview with Trump, Hannity allowed the president to downplay the death rate from coronavirus without questioning him on it.
- On March 6, Hannity joined Dr. Marc Siegel in downplaying the coronavirus; Hannity compared it to H1N1, saying there are “even friends of mine saying, ‘Is this really that bad?’”
- On March 10, Hannity attempted to minimize concerns about coronavirus by focusing on deaths from recent violence in Chicago.
- On March 11, Hannity argued on his radio show that he isn’t concerned about coronavirus because “we’re all dying.”
- Also on March 11, Hannity claimed the flu is “much more dangerous” than coronavirus.
Hannity defended Trump’s failed coronavirus response
- On March 2 on both his radio and Fox programs, Hannity lied about President Barack Obama’s 2009 H1N1 response to defend Trump.
- On March 11, Hannity praised Trump for “the number of Americans that did not contract” coronavirus.
- Also on March 11, Hannity and Dr. Marc Siegel together misleadingly compared Obama’s swine flu response with Trump’s coronavirus response, a comparison Trump has also made.
- On March 12, Hannity said on his radio show that Trump isn’t getting credit for pushing for a border wall and suggested a wall would help prevent viral outbreaks.
- On March 13, Hannity called Trump’s announcement in the White House Rose Garden about partnering with corporations to provide coronavirus testing “a massive paradigm shift in the future of disease control and prevention.”
- On March 16, Hannity said Trump’s travel ban on China was “without a doubt … the single most consequential decision in history.”
- On March 23, Hannity declared: “Anyone that says they saw this coming is full of it.”
- On March 27, Hannity said on his radio program that the media won't cover Trump's coronavirus press briefings because “he looks too presidential.”
- On March 31, Hannity hyped 1.1 million coronavirus tests as a milestone in the administration’s response, saying, “That's more than anywhere else in the world by far.” But as NPR explained, the United States is still lagging far behind other countries in testing per capita.
- Also on March 31, after stating that the Trump administration expected up to 200,000 deaths, Hannity gushed: “No president has done more, acted more quickly. The book on pandemics has now been rewritten. Future generations will learn from the lessons of this pandemic.”
Hannity distracted from Trump’s inept handling of the pandemic by blaming Democrats and journalists
- On February 28, Hannity stated on his radio show that Democrats and the media are “desperate,” claiming that they are “fearmongering” and “if they really cared about our health and our well-being, they would work together with the president.”
- On March 2, Hannity said on his radio program that journalists and Democrats are “hoping Americans die” from coronavirus.
- On March 11, Hannity on his radio show instructed listeners to ignore coronavirus warnings coming from Democrats.
- On his March 13 radio program, Hannity compared media coverage of coronavirus to the “deep state.”
- On March 16, Hannity cast blame on Democrats for the spread of the virus because of impeachment, saying that they were trying to “undo an election” instead of preparing.
- On March 18, Hannity said on his radio show that he may sue other journalists who said Fox’s misleading coronavirus coverage was dangerous.
- On March 18, Hannity called American reporters covering coronavirus in China “so-called” journalists because he doesn’t “exactly trust fake news.”
- Also on March 18, Hannity said that “the media mob” criticizing Fox’s misleading coronavirus coverage and Trump’s handling of the pandemic was “unwittingly doing the bidding of China.”
- On March 20, Hannity defended Trump's unhinged outburst at NBC’s Peter Alexander after he asked Trump what he would say to people “who are scared.”
- On March 31, Hannity agreed with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) comments and actions during the pandemic were “sad and disgusting,” adding that they were “repulsive.”
Hannity downplayed the severe shortage of medical equipment and supplies
- On March 11, Hannity said: “Fear not, back here in the U.S., we do have the best doctors, the best scientists, the best medical researchers, the best technology, and we have a president now that is committed to doing, as he said tonight, whatever it will take to save American lives.”
- On March 16, Hannity stated: “Our health care system has adequate ventilators, ICU beds, medical professionals.”
- On March 27, Hannity told Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop “whining, bitching, and complaining” about the lack of ventilators and supplies.
Hannity misleadingly attacked local government and congressional responses to the pandemic
- On March 23, Hannity claimed Democrats blocked the first version of the Senate GOP’s stimulus bill because they “want their Green New Deal” in the legislation.
- On March 24, Hannity suggested on his radio program that a crashing economy could cause more deaths from suicide than coronavirus.
- On March 25, Hannity claimed on his radio show that if those unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic are given their full salaries they will not want to return to work.
- On March 27, Hannity said on his radio program about lifting lockdowns: “We don't want the morgues full, but we also have to eat. You have to balance it.”
- On March 31, Hannity attacked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for criticizing the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, accusing him of being “missing in action” and failing to buy 16,000 ventilators as recommended by a 2015 task force. But multiple fact-checks of a similar attack by Trump pointed out that the task force did not recommend buying ventilators because it was not within its mandate. Instead, “using the assumption that there would be a shortage of ventilators in a severe influenza pandemic, the task force created the guidelines to provide ‘an ethical and clinical framework’ for deciding which patients would get one.”
- Also on March 31, Hannity attacked Democrats for urging some prisoners to be released to slow the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails, saying they are using the pandemic “to advance a political agenda.” After airing a news report on New York releasing some prisoners, Hannity said it was “unbelievable” and a “scary report.”