"The situation is getting better": Hannity immediately contradicts Trump's grim outlook on pandemic

Hours after Trump admitted the pandemic "will get worse before it gets better," Hannity painted a rosier picture

Published July 22, 2020 8:57PM (EDT)

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity (L) interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity (L) interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday evening appeared to contradict President Donald Trump's admission at an earlier White House coronavirus briefing that the pandemic would grow worse.

Hannity told his primetime viewers that "the situation is getting better — not worse." In a rare, somber moment hours earlier, Trump had told reporters that the pandemic "will get worse before it gets better."

"That's something I don't like saying — but it is," the president added.

That evening, Hannity, who on Monday was named as a co-defendant in a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against the network, showered the president with praise. However, in an apparent continuation of his attempt to defend Trump, Hannity also directly contradicted the president:

By the way, President Trump never stopped working. The pandemic is not spiraling out of control, as they projected nightly. It is the worst pandemic since 1918. Losing one life is way too many. 

The situation is getting better — not worse. And, by the way, none of these people on TV — and no Democrats — supported the travel ban 10 days after the first identified case of coronavirus, then the subsequent travel bans and the first quarantine in over 50 years. That alone — huge decisions that save lives. This administration has fulfilled every request from every state governor.

New York Times data earlier that day showed that the country had seen more than 1,100 deaths and more than 65,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours. In that time, the total number of reported U.S. deaths passed 142,000, and infections closed in on 4 million.

The previous week was the first to show a net increase in reported U.S. deaths since mid-April.

That same month, the University of Chicago published a study which found that "greater viewership of 'Hannity' relative to 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' was strongly associated with a greater number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the early stages of the pandemic."

Trump has downplayed the pandemic from the outset. Among numerous other instances and patterns, he compared it falsely to the flu; claimed numerous times that it would "miraculously" vanish in April "with the heat"; predicted that the country's 15 reported cases would soon zero out; urged states to reopen their economies in defiance of guidance from his own health experts; attacked Democratic governors who would not move at the pace he demanded; chalked up his country's world-leading case count to expanded testing; routinely misled the country with false claims about statistics and models; pushed for schools to reopen amid rising death counts; and refused to wear a mask until recent days, even though his administration's own research-based guidelines first laid out in April.

However, in his first White House coronavirus briefing in months, Trump, with his numbers plummeting in recent Fox News polling, appeared to concede that he was tethered to a grim reality. He encouraged Americans to wear masks, and at one point showed off his own navy blue face covering bearing the presidential seal. However, he did not personally demonstrate it.

"Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact," he said, later adding: "I'm getting used to the mask."

But Hannity, who often communicates directly with Trump and has been thought to at times exert a degree of influence on policy, did not seem to get the message.

The host instead attacked Democratic officials and news outlets for being selectively pessimistic and ignoring positive developments, such as heartening reports about progress on a vaccine — a story that all national outlets have covered, including Salon.

Fox News generally has served for months as a bastion of coronavirus misinformation, a reliable presidential redoubt from the slings and arrows of facts. A Media Matters audit of the cable network in May showed its coronavirus coverage had declined 20% over two months, while other networks rarely eased back.

Earlier this month, the media watchdog rolled out another study, which found that Fox News had peddled misinformation about the pandemic 253 times in the span of five days, 35% of which came from the "straight news" side of the network.

Watch the Hannity clip via Media Matters:

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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