Fox News’ Sean Hannity accused the New York Times of libel on Monday night’s edition of his primetime show, saying the paper “exploited a man’s tragic death” by linking his show to a coronavirus death.
“We just witnessed more blatant, malicious deception, smears, lies, besmirchment from the mob and the media,” he announced to his viewers. Look at this article in the New York Times. It is entitled, ‘A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus, Then Took a Cruise.'”
He referenced a Saturday piece by Ginia Bellafante, which told the story of how a bar owner named Joe Joyce took a cruise on March 1 and later died from the coronavirus. The piece quoted Joyce’s daughter saying, “He watched Fox, and believed it was under control.” Bellafante wrote that Hannity had called the virus a “hoax” in early March and noted that a Fox News spokesperson had pointed out his comments about the public being unnecessarily afraid of the virus happened after Joyce and his wife left on their cruise. The specific comments from Hannity that were referenced in the piece happened March 9, over a week into the Joyces’ cruise.
After outlining that and extending sympathy to Joyce’s family, Hannity went off: “Now, the Times claimed that because of something I said in early March, March 9th to be exact, well, Joyce decided it would be OK to take a cruise to Spain. Now, they claim he ultimately contracted coronavirus, didn’t quite tie to the cruise completely, and sadly he passed away. Now, this is where the New York Times’ slander begins: In order to smear yours truly, they literally — this woman exploited a man’s tragic death. She willingly, maliciously, purposefully took something I said completely out of context and as proven by all my past statements that The New York Times was very well aware of. And it gets worse: The remarks that she used, yes, they were from March the 9th, again, taken out of context. It was also eight days after Mr. Joyce embarked on his cruise. Those area the remarks she referred to in her slanderous piece. That is slander. That is libel.”
A spokesperson for the New York Times told TheWrap, “The column accurately and sympathetically told the story of Joe Joyce’s life. No fact in the column has been challenged.”
They went on, “In response to Hannity’s claims about editing, the column was updated after its initial publication to include a statement from Fox News. No other edits were made.”
The New York Post — run, like Fox News, by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — is on Hannity’s side for this one. The Post’s editorial board wrote Monday that Fox News “didn’t kill” Joyce, but the Times was “shameless” in its Saturday piece.