Fox News host Sean Hannity is demanding an apology and a retraction from The New York Times following a story they published on April 18, where they blame comments he made during "Hannity" for the COVID-19 death of New York family man, despite the story not holding up under scrutiny.
Times reporter Ginia Bellafante wrote about how bar owner Joe Joyce was skeptical about the severity of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and went on a cruise on March 1. Bellafante then writes about comments Hannity made on March 9, long after Joyce left on the cruise, in an attempt to illustrate how he was responsible for Joyce's death.
Instead of writing how Hannity made the comments on March 9, Bellafante described it as "Early in March":
"On March 1, Joe Joyce and his wife, Jane, set sail for Spain on a cruise, flying first to Florida. His adult children — Kevin, Eddie and Kristen Mider — suggested that the impending doom of the coronavirus made this a bad idea. Joe Joyce was 74, a nonsmoker, healthy; four years after he opened his bar he stopped drinking completely. He didn’t see the problem.
"'He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,’ Kristen told me.
"Early in March Sean Hannity went on air proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared 'unnecessarily.’' He saw it all, he said, 'as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.'"
In a letter sent to the Times and Bellafante on Monday, Hannity's attorneys laid out why the paper should issue a retraction and an apology:
"In the story you published on or about April 18, 2020, entitled 'A Beloved Bar OwnerWas Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took A Cruise,'...you falsely state and falsely imply a connection between Mr. Hannity’s on-air comments and Mr. Joyce’s decision to take a cruise. But what you fail to mention is that Mr. Hannity’s comments could not possibly have influenced Mr. Joyce’s decision because he embarked on his cruise on March 1 (according to your report), while Mr. Hannity made comments on March 9, which you claim influenced his decision. 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."
"The April 18, 2020 Story is one of many instances of your ongoing campaign to personally attack Mr. Hannity by mischaracterizing and making false statements with respect to his coverage of the coronavirus pandemic," the letter continued.
"By way of example, in another story published by you on or about March 31, 2020, entitled 'Fox’s Fake News Contagion'...you falsely state and imply that Mr. Hannity is responsible for determining all of Fox News’ coverage of the coronavirus, regardless of program or host, and you again falsely state and imply that Mr. Hannity has downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and given the public 'misinformation' about the pandemic."
Hannity's lawyer gave the Times 24 hours to acknowledge they have received the letter and to meet their demands.
"Failure to do so will leave Mr. Hannity with no alternative but to consider instituting immediate legal proceedings against you. Should that occur, Mr. Hannity would pursue all available causes of action and seek all available legal remedies to the maximum extent permitted by law, including without limitation, actual damages, special damages, punitive damages, and temporary and permanent injunctive relief."
Hannity also vocally pushed back on a University of Chicago study that claimed he had fellow host Tucker Carlson "increased cases and deaths throughout March and early April."
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