Fox News host Sean Hannity—yes, the Sean Hannity who has repeatedly peddled coronavirus misinformation—fact-checked a former New York Times reporter on Thursday night who falsely claimed that the deadly virus posed “no risk” to young people and children.
During his primetime Fox News show on Thursday, Hannity brought on Alex Berenson, who has drawn attention in right-wing media circles for insisting that the threat of the pandemic has been vastly overblown and the drastic social-distancing restrictions that have been implemented weren’t needed.
Hannity, who along with other Fox News stars has been pushing President Donald Trump to restart the economy as soon as possible, praised Berenson at first for “calling out the media’s B.S.” on the pandemic.
“I’ve been reading your Twitter accounts, following you closely like others are, you’re pretty fascinating to me. Certainly willing to say things that people find controversial,” the Fox star added.
Berenson, meanwhile, doubted the need to “flatten the curve” on coronavirus cases in the country, suggesting public health experts have greatly exaggerated the impacts on hospitals and the health-care system if strict social distancing guidelines and mass closures weren’t instituted.
After claiming that hospitals are “emptier now than they were a month ago,” Berenson went on to say that he believes the public health, economic, and societal consequences of locking down the country have been “massively understated.” Referencing children missing school, the reporter then delivered a whopper that prompted an immediate reaction from Hannity.
“Kids, children, almost anybody under 30 is at no risk to this,” Berenson declared. “No serious risk from this virus. I’m not saying it can never happen.”
“Whoa, whoa—hang on a second,” the Fox host interrupted. “Whoa, whoa, whoa—that changed though. Hold on a second, Alex. That changed in the middle.”
Hannity noted that while medical experts initially stated that younger people were at very little risk from the disease, that was found to not be correct and current hospitalizations bear that out.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that while death is rare in people under 20, there have still been nine cases so far in the United States. The Post also found at least 45 deaths among people in their twenties and close to 200 people in their thirties who have perished from the disease. As of publication, 16,672 Americans have died and over 460,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States.
At the end of the interview, Hannity applauded Berenson for being “iconoclastic” and “making people think” before noting that he doesn’t “fully agree” with what he is doing.
Berenson is also the author of an anti-marijuana book that has come under intense criticism from the scientific community for claiming weed causes psychosis and violence. Psychology professors Charles Ksir and Carl Hart, who noted they have 70-plus years of research on drug research between them, found “Berenson’s assertions to be misinformed and reckless.”