Fox News superstar Sean Hannity has threatened to sue The New York Times and a handful of its prominent columnists unless the paper retracts and apologizes for accusing the conservative commentator of misleading the public on the coronavirus pandemic. The Times has run several stories which characterize Hannity as a coronavirus denier who told the public that the disease posed no threat to the American people in the early days of the outbreak. Hannity and his lawyers say the NYT coverage is biased and misleading itself, and he wants the paper to come clean.
In a response to the industry website TheWrap, a spokesperson for The Times said, “We’ve reported fairly and accurately on Mr. Hannity and there is no basis for a retraction or an apology.”
In a letter to the Times this week, however, Hannity’s lawyer, Charles Harder, says that the Times’s reporting has been anything but fair and accurate. The letter calls out three columns, written by Ben Smith, Kara Swisher, and Ginia Bellafante respectively, that were “false and defamatory, and extremely damaging.”
From TheWrap’s coverage:
Regarding Smith’s March 22 column, “Rupert Murdoch Put His Son in Charge of Fox. It Was a Dangerous Mistake,” the letter claims that Smith “falsely stated and falsely implied that Mr. Hannity downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.”
As for Swisher’s March 31 op-ed, “Fox’s Fake News Contagion,” the letter states that Swisher “falsely” stated and implied that Hannity is “responsible for determining all of Fox News’ coverage of the coronavirus, regardless of program or host” and that he has “downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and given the public ‘misinformation” about the pandemic.’”
And for the April 18 piece by Bellafante about Joyce, “A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise.,” the letter says that the piece “falsely” states and implies a connection between Hannity’s on-air comments and Joyce’s decision to go on a cruise.
Tell you what, mainstream news institutions like the New York Times might want to be careful here. They don’t want to get into a stone-throwing match with members of the conservative media. There is plenty of evidence to show that The Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and the rest of them spread a very conflicting message about the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak. Those in glass houses…might want to shut the hell up.