Sean Hannity scolds Fox News host who asked colleagues not to question Biden's mental health

Fox News has a well-documented history of making false claims about the health of Democratic candidates

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 9, 2020 3:55PM (EDT)

Sean Hannity (AP/Jeff Roberson)
Sean Hannity (AP/Jeff Roberson)

Fox News host Howard Kurtz received a public chiding from Sean Hannity after warning his colleagues against questioning former Vice President Joe Biden's mental fitness to hold office.

"Howie, being the President of the United States of America is the Hardest [sic] job in the world," Hannity wrote in a series of tweets Sunday. "Whether any candidate has the physical strength, the stamina, the focus and mental toughness needed to do this job is critical. When someone repeatedly forgets what day it is, what state they are in, seems to be regularly confused, that needs to be discussed as part of a normal vetting process."

Hannity then cited a moment in which Biden appeared to forget the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, adding: "Are you saying Howie that all of these "moments" are not at all alarming to you?? Thanks, but no thanks for the for lectures [sic]."

Kurtz criticized his Fox News colleagues for attacking Biden's mental health during a Sunday segment of his show "Media Buzz."

"I always criticize liberal commentators for saying things like 'President Trump is mentally ill,' and 'President Trump has psychosis and he's narcissistic' and all that. So I do think it was unfortunate that some commentators on Super Tuesday — Brit Hume, Marc Thiessen, people I respect — said Joe Biden is senile or getting there," Kurtz said. "I mean, certainly he's forgetful with his memory lapses, and you can question his performance."

Fox News has a well-documented history of making false claims about the health of Democratic presidential nominees. Conservative commentators at the network and other outlets falsely claimed during the 2016 election that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had heart problems, seizures and other undefined medical problems.

Trump himself said in a foreign policy speech at the time, "Hillary Clinton lacks the judgement, the temperament and the moral character to lead this nation. Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all the many adversaries we face – not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn this country around."

Other commentators have expressed a lack of concerned about Biden's gaffes. John Hendrickson of The Atlantic speculated in January that many of Biden's gaffes are caused by his need to suppress a stutter, one which he has had since childhood.

Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee wrote for Medium earlier this month that "Joe Biden does not nearly meet my threshold for signs of dangerous mental instability." She added in an addendum, "I did not say that Joe Biden shows no disturbances. Indeed, he shows signs that may be of concern under ordinary circumstances." Her argument is that "minor issues in Joe Biden are magnified (to the level of reality in Donald Trump), while Trump's defects are minimized (to the level of reality in Biden)."

Lee said the same thing to Salon earlier this month, writing that "I have no need to call out Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders as big concerns, since for all their shortcomings they are nowhere near being a similar level of danger." 

She previously described Trump's apparent mental health problems as an inability "to show any tolerance of ambiguity, doubt or flexibility in thinking," as well as "denial and projection." Lee has also argued that Trump's mental health issues hurt his ability to implement the right policies, arguing that "from coronavirus to the climate threat to a new nuclear arms race to the southern border, he worsens every situation in more ways than we can see, such as by gutting every agency that was set up to prepare for emergencies. This is not by accident. The mind is powerful, and I fear that perhaps the greatest danger is the alternative reality he is creating for his followers — all to buttress his fragile sense of self and to hide his incompetence."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Brief Cable News Election 2020 Fox News Howard Kurtz Joe Biden Politics Sean Hannity