On Monday’s episode of his primetime Fox News show, Sean Hannity made headlines — as did several other Fox News personalities — when he appeared, briefly, to diverge from colleagues like Tucker Carlson and urge his viewers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
But on Thursday, Hannity used his syndicated radio show to deliver a follow-up message: Never mind.
Hannity’s comments on Monday made waves because Fox News has several hosts who express misgivings about the COVID vaccines or oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to encourage vaccination. And network superstar Tucker Carlson has repeatedly invited vaccine “skeptics” to spread baseless conspiracy theories.
We, like many publications, wrote about Hannity’s comments at the time, but we also carefully pointed out how tepid his statement actually was, since he framed the whole thing as a matter of personal choice and privacy rather than public health. He also bookended his statement with what amounts to antivaxxer content: One segment in the same episode railed against vaccine mandates, another overhyped potential vaccine side effects.
So cut to Thursday, when Hannity insisted to listeners of his radio show that he absolutely didn’t mean to imply he was trying to encourage people to get vaccinated, and distanced himself from all the positive press he received. You can listen to audio of his radio show above, courtesy of Media Matters, but if you can’t listen, here’s what he said (emphasis ours):
“For some reason, me saying take COVID seriously has finally caught up with the mob and the — and the media. Now, I think they’ve got ulterior motives. They monitor this show and TV every night, and I think it has to do with the fact that — you know, there’s been this attempt to blame conservatives for the vaccine hesitancy.
And, you know for example, Yahoo News: ‘Suddenly Sean Hannity and other Fox hosts are urging their viewers to get COVID-19 vaccines.’ Suddenly? Well, first of all, I’m not urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, because I’m not a doctor. That is not what I said. I said to take it seriously, it can kill you. I said to do a lot of research. If you have a phone, do your research. I said to consult your doctor and doctors, and medical professionals you trust. I said to consider your unique medical history that I know nothing about. I said to also look at your current medical condition and, in consultation with your doctors, take — don’t not do this. Do the research.”
So to sum up, yes he takes COVID-19 seriously and yes, he says it can kill you, but no he absolutely isn’t urging anyone to take the COVID-19 vaccine which has saved millions of lives. Yes, we fully understand the wiggle here is that he’s telling people “do the research” and advising “consultation with your doctors,” but the upshot is, unmistakably, that Sean Hannity has denied in unambiguous terms that he is even tepidly encouraging people to take the vaccine.
Now, a couple of things. First, Hannity’s radio show isn’t affiliated with Fox News — it’s syndicated by an iHeartMedia subsidiary.
And second, Fox News as an organization has not officially taken a position against the vaccine, and the news network has often aired pro-vaccine content — increasingly so in recent days outside of the most-watched primetime hours.
Also, despite superstars like Tucker Carlson outright refusing to say if he has been vaccinated and railing against measures that would reduce the spread of COVID, Fox News as it turns out actually has an internal vaccine passport protocol in place. In addition, the network recently also began directing viewers to vaccine resources in a re-aired PSA from earlier this year urging people to get vaccinated “if they can.”