The New York Times suggested Saturday that statements by Sean Hannity of Fox News helped encourage a Brooklyn bar owner to take a cruise regardless of the risk of coronavirus, which killed him.
The headline of the article, as it appeared in the Sunday print edition, was: “‘Fake News’ and a Possibly Ill-Fated Trip.” (The online headline: “A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise.”)
The problem: the Times quoted a remark Hannity made eight days after the man left for the cruise.
Later, the Times inserted that information as a comment from Fox News, without drawing readers’ attention to the update, which undermined its accusation of Hannity’s indirect responsibility.
The Times presented him as a Trump supporter and Fox News viewer, though his bar was an “incongruously progressive place.”
The Times then narrated the following timeline:
On March 1, Joe Joyce and his wife, Jane, set sail for Spain on a cruise, flying first to Florida. His adult children — Kevin, Eddie and Kristen Mider — suggested that the impending doom of the coronavirus made this a bad idea. Joe Joyce was 74, a nonsmoker, healthy; four years after he opened his bar he stopped drinking completely. He didn’t see the problem.
“He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,’’ Kristen told me.
Early in March Sean Hannity went on air proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared “unnecessarily.’’ He saw it all, he said, “as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.”
Eventually, Fox changed course and took the virus more seriously, but the Joyces were long gone by then. On March 14, they returned to New York from Barcelona, and the next day, before bars and restaurants were forced to close in the city, Joe Joyce went to work at JJ Bubbles for the last time.
He and his wife then headed to their house in New Hampshire. Their children were checking in from New York and New Jersey, and on March 27, when Kristen got off the phone with her father, she called an ambulance. He was wheezing. His oxygen level turned out to be a dangerously low 70 percent. On April 9, he died of Covid-19.
The quote from Hannity, “let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax,” was from March 9, as documented by left-leaning Vox.
The Times attempted to link Hannity to Joyce’s decision to take the cruise, but there is no evidence that Joyce made his mind up based on what Hannity said — certainly not on March 9, eight days after Joyce had already departed on the cruise.
(Notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a well-respected member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, told the American public as late as March 9 — the date of Hannity’s quote — that it was safe for “a healthy young person” to go on a cruise.)
The Times quietly updated its article (emphasis added):
Eventually, Fox changed course and took the virus more seriously, but the Joyces were long gone by then. A spokeswoman for Fox News said that Mr. Hannity made statements taking the spread of coronavirus seriously early on, and that his comment about the public being scared by the coverage happened after the Joyces had left on their cruise.
On March 14, they returned to New York from Barcelona, and the next day, before bars and restaurants were forced to close in the city, Joe Joyce went to work at JJ Bubbles for the last time.
The Times could not even prove that Joyce contracted the disease on the trip, admitting: “It is possible, of course, that Joe Joyce did not contract the coronavirus on a trip to Spain.”
I fundamentally don’t understand the panic: incidence of the disease is declining in China. Virus is not deadly in vast majority of cases. Production and so on will slow down and will obviously rebound. cc: @opinion_joe
— Ginia Bellafante (@GiniaNYT) February 27, 2020
The Times article indicates that it was updated most recently (as of this writing) at 4:40 p.m. ET on April 19, but there is no note explaining what the update was, or pointing readers to the apparent error in the newspaper’s chronology of events.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.