Fox News host Sean Hannity elicited praise this week for telling his viewers ― on a network famous for vaccine scaremongering and misinformation ― to “please take COVID seriously,” saying that he believes “in the science of vaccination.”
The comments were portrayed as a ringingendorsement of the vaccine at a time when the delta variant is tearing through unvaccinated populations. In other words, it was portrayed as responsible public health messaging.
Hannity is apparently not happy about that.
“I never told anyone to get a vaccine,” Hannity said on his show Thursday night, insisting that he had not changed his stance on the virus or the vaccine. “I’ve been very clear. I am simply not qualified ... I think it’s inappropriate to do so.”
His earlier comments had in fact fallen short of a full endorsement. Hannity said that he believes “it absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated” ― “many,” not “most” or “nearly all.” He encouraged viewers to talk to their doctors but also to do their own research online, where vaccine misinformation abounds.
Hannity wants everyone to know "I never told anyone to get a vaccine."
So, basically, he wants you all to stop giving him any credit for urging his viewers to get vaxxed. pic.twitter.com/1nr1SYcPqs
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 23, 2021
The Fox host distancing himself from positive vaccine messaging is not particularly surprising. His colleague, Tucker Carlson, has consistently used his show to cast a mountain of doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines and the trustworthiness of public health officials, as has “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade.
But it does come at a time when a number of conservatives are encouraging people to get vaccinated. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged people to get their shots multiple times this week, and House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was holding off on getting vaccinated, finally did so on Sunday.
Public health experts agree that getting vaccinated is the best way to slow down the spread of the deadly virus and finally move past the pandemic.
Hospitals in areas of the country that leaned heavily in favor of President Donald Trump are currently dealing with an influx of cases ― mostly of the delta variant, which is believed to be significantly more infectious than versions of the virus that swept through America’s urban areas last year.
This week, an Alabama doctor’s Facebook post went viral for its heartbreaking details about patients recently hospitalized with COVID-19.
“One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine,” Dr. Brytney Cobia wrote. “I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.