Hannity: Look, I never told anyone to get vaccinated

Four days ago he uncorked this monologue and got mainstream praise for it, at a moment when Fox News hosts were suddenly taking a more pro-vax note amid a wave of criticism:

Vaccination makes sense for many Americans, Hannity explained, stressing that he believed in the science of the process. But the praise for that was overblown, as he had criticized college vaccine mandates on the same show and went on to interview a woman who’d had a serious complication from a completely different vaccine a few years ago. And he never did go quite as far as to encourage his viewers to get the shot. Instead he told them to “research like crazy,” knowing that the sort of “research” many of them would resort to would be googling online to find half-baked tales of vaccine doomsaying that would confirm their anti-vax priors.

Even so, he must have gotten an earful from his populist fan base afterward. Tucker Carlson has taken an anti-anti-anti-vax line, never insisting that viewers shouldn’t get immunized but continuing to “just ask questions” designed to foster doubt in vaccination. If you watch Tucker and you’re vaccine-skeptical, the message is that you’re right to be. Hannity’s monologue earlier this week turned that emphasis around. You have every right to ask questions, he said, but vaccines work and they’ll work for many of you.

He told his audience something they didn’t want to hear, risky business when you work in political media and riskier when your fans are mostly populists. Are you on the team or not, Sean?

If you are, why are you pushing vaccines?

Last night Hannity “clarified” that he wasn’t pushing vaccines by calling out the “media mob” that dared to smear him by implying that he was, uh, pro-vaccination.

“I am simply not qualified” to recommend vaccination for anyone because I’m not a doctor, he said. Right, but he can read the data like anyone else can. He knows how many old, sick people have been immunized without any problem and how much that’s done to drive down COVID deaths among the elderly. His message could have been “Talk to your doctor if you have concerns, but nearly everyone stands to gain more than they’ll lose by getting vaccinated. You should definitely do it unless you have a good health reason not to.”

But then he’d be off the team. He’d be on the same team as this guy, who did the pro-vax Foxies no favors by teasing them on national television on Wednesday evening:

Biden suggested that he was “feeling better” because “one of those other networks is not a big fan of mine,” but “if you notice, as they say in the southern part of my state, they have had an altar call, some of those guys. All of the sudden they are out there saying, ‘Let’s get vaccinated. Let’s get vaccinated.’ They very people before this were saying…” The president stopped himself.

“I shouldn’t make fun of this. That’s good. It’s good. We just have to keep telling the truth.”

Once Biden noticed the shift in tone on Fox on vaccinations, some righty viewers were destined to file it under the Trumpian heading of “Fox is acting like Democrats again.” Hannity’s comments last night aimed to counter that. How can he be a Democrat if he’s never told you to get vaccinated?

He should have reminded them of the good old days when he and Laura Ingraham were talking up hydroxychloroquine. He wasn’t a doctor then either, but oh well.

One thing he could do to encourage vaccination would be to explain to viewers that the vaccines work very well at preventing serious illness against all the variants, including the Delta variant. That message isn’t getting through to the unvaccinated right now according to the AP:

Maybe all the media coverage of breakthrough infections has inadvertently convinced holdouts that the shots don’t do anything against Delta, which is the opposite of the truth. Hannity could have doctors on who’ll bust that myth, and he could even present it in terms of his studiously vaccine-neutral stance: “I’m not saying you should take it, but if the reason you’re not taking it is because you think it’s a bust against the new variant, you’re flat wrong.”

But if he does that, he’ll be accused of being pro-vaccine again. And that would be bad for business: “Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they have not been vaccinated and definitely or probably won’t be, 43% to 10%,” per the AP’s data.

I’ll leave you with this exchange from another Fox program last night. Steve Hayes has to strain very hard not to name names, mindful of which network he’s on.