On Monday, Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity publicly demanded The New York Times not only issue a correction, but apologize for a false and heinous April 18 column implicating him in the death of 74-year-old Brooklyn resident Joe Joyce from the coronavirus. Tuesday morning, The Times issued a statement in which they declined to do so and instead boasted Ginia Bellafante’s column was “accurate.”
Bellafante chronicled Joyce as a Fox News viewer and Trump supporter (and father of a friend) who went on a cruise that left March 1, and returned March 14 before his April 9 death. As for Hannity, she placed Joyce’s tale alongside Hannity saying on March 8 that the media were stirring up unnecessary fear about the virus to hurt Trump as reason for why he went on the cruise.
Many have noted that not only was that false, but even if Hannity’s comments came earlier, New York City wasn’t shut down until March 15.
In the story you published on or about April 18, 2020, entitled “A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took A Cruise,” available at https://www.nytimes.com/ 2020/04/18/nyregion/coronavirus-jjbubbles-joe-joyce.html (the “April 18, 2020 Story”), 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 letter went on to name other instances of The Times’s entries in the liberal media-wide smear campaign to inflict (perhaps fatal) damage on FNC, the network the liberal media so vehemently hate.
“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,” it added.
Hannity addressed the topic hours later on FNC in his opening monologue (click “expand”):
The abuse of power, Democrats, the media mob, they have been using the #MeToo movement only when it’s convenient as a political weapon for years, selective, feigned, phony moral outrage. There is nothing sadly they won’t do to win power back.
The same people now accusing the President and even yours truly pretty much of murder, killing people who passed away from the coronavirus, when nothing cold be further from the truth and in related news tonight, my renowned libel attorney, Charles Harder, has sent a letter to The New York Times demanding a retraction and apology. It’s also a preservation letter over their fake news story that all but accused me of murder. Full details, Hannity.com, @seanhannity on Twitter. What they wrote was false, it is provably false and rather than do the ethical, honest, journalistic thing, which would be correct and then that’s to retract and then apologize. What they do? They secretly stealth-edited their mistake. To me, an admission of guilt and the stealth addition, by the way, rendered their phony headline false. More evidence of wrongdoing. But let’s be clear, there is no lie the mob and the media won’t tell, no slander they won’t spread, no hoax too insane to pass off as actual news.
The Times’s response came down in the former of a letter by Times senior vice president and deputy general counsel David McCraw addressed to Harder:
I write in response to your 12-page-letter alleging that your client Sean Hannity was defamed by three columns in The New York Times.
The columns are accurate, do not reasonably imply what you and Mr. Hannity allege they do, and constitute protected opinion.
In response to your request for an apology and retraction, our answer is “no.”
In other words, seeing as how both Hannity is a public figure and what Bellafante wrote was an opinion piece, we have nothing to apologize for. And presumably they’re hedging bets on the fact that her column didn’t explicitly say Hannity murdered Joyce, but rather left it as an implication with a rhetorical wink and nudge.