The New York Times responded Monday night to Sean Hannity’s demand for an apology and retraction over recent columns concerning his comments on the coronavirus. “In response to your request for an apology and a retraction, our answer is ‘no,’” a Times lawyer wrote in a letter to Hannity’s lawyer, Charles Harder, who had represented the Trump campaign in a previous lawsuit against the Times.
Earlier on Monday, Hannity and Harder threatened to sue the Times in a letter accusing the paper of “blatant and outrageous disregard for the truth in mischaracterizing Mr. Hannity’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.” In the letter, Harder pointed to three columns that, he wrote, demonstrate “actual malice.” He took particular umbrage with an April 18 article with the headline “A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise.”
The article was about Joe Joyce, who went on a cruise in early March against the wishes of his children and later died of COVID-19. One of his kids told the paper that Joyce watched Fox News and believed the virus “was under control.” Writer Ginia Bellafante then brought up Hannity’s March 9 comments calling the coronavirus “a new hoax.”
Harder pointed out in his letter that Hannity’s comments were made after Joyce left for his trip, which is mentioned in the piece. Harder also accused Ben Smith and Kara Swisher of making statements that are “false and defamatory, and extremely damaging” in columns published earlier this month.
Contrary to the paper’s claims, Harder wrote, Hannity has “extensively and truthfully covered the virus and the seriousness of the pandemic,” while the Times has failed to interrogate coverage by “Democratic Party–friendly media outlets, including ABC, NBC, CBS, and MSNBC.”
Times lawyer David McCraw defended the paper’s coverage in the terse response to Harder, writing, “The columns are accurate, do not reasonably imply what you and Mr. Hannity allege they do, and constitute protected opinion.”