Coronavirus Deaths Greater Among Fox News Viewers That Prefer Hannity Over Tucker Carlson, Study Says

Fox News disputes the findings of a new study that suggests regular viewers of the show Hannity were more likely to die from coronavirus than those who preferred Tucker Carlson Tonight.

The study, titled "Misinformation During a Pandemic," was first published Sunday by the University of Chicago's Becker Friedman Institute for Economics. Researchers asserted that reduced incidences of Covid-19 and lower death rates among Fox News viewers were associated a more serious view of the health crisis taken early on by host Tucker Carlson.

"Carlson warned viewers that the coronavirus might pose a serious threat from early February," wrote the researchers. "While Hannity first ignored the topic on his show and then dismissed the risks associated with the virus, claiming that it was less concerning than the common flu and insisting that Democrats were using it as a political weapon to undermine the president."

Although Sean Hannity did compare Covid-19 favorably to the flu on multiple occasions, he was not the only media figure to do so. In the early days of the health crisis, the comparison was made often, with CNN's Anderson Cooper making the comparison as late as March 4.

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Coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic on Fox News has been heavily criticized by some. Drew Angerer/Getty

Viewership of Hannity relative to Carlson's show was associated with around 30 percent more cases of Covid-19 on March 14 and 21 percent more deaths due to the virus on March 28, according to the study.

The effect is said to have trailed off after that, which the researchers suggest happened because there was a "gradual convergence in scripts" for the shows that started in late February.

The study argues that Hannity began shifting his views as the scale of the impending health crisis became clear in late February. By mid-March, areas with high viewership for Hannity were said to have correlated with areas hit hardest by the pandemic, while those who preferred Tucker Carlson Tonight tended to be located in areas impacted less severely.

Carlson was described as an "outlier on Fox News" for expressing caution that the virus could pose a serious threat as early on. As early as January 28 he warned of the potentially "very serious" dangers of the virus, correctly predicting that it could become a pandemic.

The researchers also conducted a survey that found Fox News viewers who preferred Hannity changed their behavior in reaction to the virus five days later than the average, while Tucker Carlson Tonight viewers changed theirs three days earlier than average.

Fox News disputes the findings of the study, insisting that it is "factually wrong" and the evidence used by researchers was unfairly selected.

"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," said a Fox News spokesperson in a statement obtained by Newsweek.

"As this timeline proves, Hannity has covered Covid-19 since the early days of the story." the statement continues. "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."

The timeline provided by Fox News includes gaps in Hannity's coverage of the virus and does not compare his show with Tucker Carlson Tonight. The University of Chicago researchers also do not provide a complete record of potentially relevant shows from both hosts in their published paper, although they say their findings are based on analysis of complete transcripts for the shows.