Viewers of a Fox News show with a host accused of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus were more likely to contract the virus than those who watched a show with a host who issued warnings about the dangers of a pandemic, a study finds.
The study entitled “Misinformation During a Pandemic” was conducted by researchers at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago. As NPR News noted, the report compared viewers of Sean Hannity’s primetime show versus those who watch one hosted by Tucker Carlson. According to the report, Hannity has been accused of downplaying the severity of the outbreak, while Carlson used his primetime program to discuss the dangers of a pandemic and the deadly potential of the virus.
The study looked at 1,045 Fox News viewers aged 55 or older and studied how their habits changed in response to recommendations from health experts to practice social distancing and avoid group settings.
Those who watched Hannity were more likely to have contracted the virus, the report found.
“The paper says viewership of Hannity relative to Carlson is associated with approximately 30% more COVID-19 cases by March 14, and 21% more COVID-19 deaths by March 28,” NPR News noted.
The report also noted that Carlson warned as early as February 25 that the virus could spread quickly through asymptomatic carriers, and predicted that there could be as many as 27 million deaths globally, with the potential of one million in the United States. At the same time, Hannity was echoing statements from President Donald Trump downplaying the severity of the outbreak and predicting that it would soon be over.
Both Hannity and Trump also made comparisons between the novel coronavirus and the influenza virus, which public health experts have said is not an apt comparison.
“And today, thankfully, zero people in the United States of America have died from the coronavirus. Zero,” Hannity told viewers during an episode in February.
“Now, let’s put this in perspective. In 2017, 61,000 people in this country died from influenza, the flu. Common flu. Around 100 people die every single day from car wrecks,” the paper quotes Hannity from his show on Feb. 27.”
Representatives for Fox News have pushed back against the characterization that Hannity did not cover the outbreak seriously, noting that he had covered the coronavirus outbreak since the early days, including an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who would later become a leading figure on the White House’s coronavirus task force.
Editor’s note: A Fox News spokesperson reached out the The Inquisitr with the following statement.
The selective cherry-picked clips of Sean Hannity’s coverage used in this study are not only reckless and irresponsible, but down right factually wrong. As this timeline proves, Hannity has covered Covid-19 since the early days of the story. The ‘study’ almost completely ignores his coverage and repeated, specific warnings and concerns from January 27-February 26 including an early interview with Dr. Fauci in January. This is a reckless disregard for the truth.”