In the Republican spirit of prolonged denial followed by measured acceptance, Fox News host Sean Hannity finally urged his viewers to take "seriously" the coronavirus pandemic that has been raging for more than a year now, killing more than 600,000 people in the United States alone. “Please take COVID seriously. I can’t say it enough,” Hannity said Monday night on his show. “Enough people have died. We don’t need anymore death. Research like crazy.” Hannity added: “Talk to your doctor, your doctors, medical professionals you trust based on your unique medical history, your current medical condition, and you and your doctor make a very important decision for your own safety. Take it seriously. You also have a right to medical privacy. Doctor-patient confidentiality’s also important, and it absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccination.”
Then he made a mistake frequently repeated by many a conservative before him: He kept talking.
“Across the country, with the approval of Joe Biden, some colleges and universities are mandating that students take the vaccine, regardless of whether they had natural immunity,” Hannity said. “The courts, so far, seem to be on the side of mandates.
“For example, a federal judge on Monday upheld Indiana University’s vaccination requirement for students despite arguments from plaintiffs that such rules violate their right to body integrity and medical privacy.”
U.S. District Judge Damon Leichty heard oral arguments on July 13 in the case launched by eight students but sided with the university, The Washington Post reported. “Recognizing the students’ significant liberty to refuse unwanted medical treatment, the Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty, and staff,” Leichty wrote in the opinion Sunday. “Today, on this preliminary record, the university has done so for its campus communities. The students haven’t established a likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourteenth Amendment claim or the many requirements that must precede the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction.”
His conflicting opinions aside, Hannity’s clip had been viewed 3.8 million times on Twitter by Tuesday morning. MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid tweeted: "Wow what happened? You know what? I don't even care. Say more of these words, Hannity. Apparently he's one of like two people over there who don't actively want their viewers to die."
Other social media users didn’t exactly consider Hannity’s clip a sign of a change in heart. Journalist Keith Boykin tweeted: “So, Sean Hannity and Fox News waited 16 months, while 600,000 Americans were killed and 35 million infected, before they finally decided to encourage their viewers to ‘take Covid seriously’ and ‘believe in science.’" Journalist Jan Wolfe tweeted: “Before this clip, Hannity criticized a university for mandating vaccines. After this clip, Hannity interviewed a young woman who lost feeling in her legs for a month in 2019 after getting a different type of vaccine.”
Actor Kurt Bardella tweeted: "I’m sorry Fox/Hannity but you don’t get a ‘that a boy’ for doing what you should’ve been doing the entire time. You don’t get extra credit for telling the truth about the #COVID19 and vaccines. In theory, telling the truth is literally your job."
Unless you’re Fox News, a network so infamous for its mistruths and deceptions that the cyber world took notice when hosts wove in opinions based on actual science. Daily Beast Contributing Editor Justin Baragona tweeted on Monday: "There seems to be a concerted effort today by Fox's daytime news shows to promote the vaccines to its audience. Dr. Marc Siegel says ‘the Delta variant needs to be a wake-up call to get vaccinated.’ Anchor John Roberts then directs viewers to the government vaccine website."
It's unclear what prompted the network’s sudden change, but several news outlets have reported falling stocks as fears about the pandemic worsening return. The Associated Press reported on Monday that the S&P 500 was 1.9% lower in morning trading, following a record high just a week earlier. In other causes for concern, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 769 points, or 2.2%, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped below 1.20%, “close to its lowest level in five months,” the news wire reported.
Some social media users claimed that Hannity is only concerned about his stock portfolio. Others, like conservative former candidate for president Joe Walsh, played into a rumor that Hannity was forced to say what he did by Fox lawyers. Political commentator Majid Padellan tweeted: "I don't care why he did it. I don't care what he said before. Fox News viewers believe in Hannity, he told them to get vaccinated, and we need more of that from THEM. It could make a huge difference."
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