The New York Times on Tuesday said it would not retract or apologize for columns critical of Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick Hannity90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive The Memo: California recall exposes the limit of Trump's GOP Republicans divided on Trump's strength as possible 2024 candidate MORE's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic after Hannity's attorney threatened legal action against the newspaper.
"The columns are accurate, do not reasonably imply what you and Mr. Hannity allege they do, and constitute protected opinion," wrote Times's legal counsel David E. McCraw to Hannity attorney Charles Harder.
"In response to your request for an apology and retraction, our answer is 'no,' " the letter concludes.
New York Times newsroom lawyer David McCraw delivers this response to @seanhannity request for retraction and apology related to @nytimes coverage: "No." Addressed to Hannity lawyer Charles Harder: pic.twitter.com/0v7URfo1kz— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) April 28, 2020
The response comes after Harder sent the Times a 12-page letter on Monday calling for a public retraction and apology from the Times over a number of columns. Most at issue is an April 18 piece by Ginia Bellafante that focused on a late Brooklyn bar owner named Joe Joyce, who took a cruise to Spain that began on March 1, and later contracted the coronavirus.
Joyce, 74, died on April 9.
It is not clear that Joyce contracted the coronavirus when he was in Spain, but Joyce's daughter Kristen Mider told Bellafante that her father watched Fox News and believed the coronavirus was under control.
Bellafante then quoted Hannity, writing that he "went on air proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared 'unnecessarily.' He saw it all, he said, 'as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.' "
The first coronavirus death in the U.S. was recorded in Washington state on Feb. 29, which was one day before New York's first reported case of the virus.
Hannity has since called the column a "smear" that exploited Joyce's death and "pretty much all but accused [him] of murder."
"We write concerning the New York Times’ blatant and outrageous disregard for the truth in mischaracterizing Mr. Hannity’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and blaming him for the tragic death of Joe Joyce," Harder wrote in a letter sent on Monday.
"You have acted with actual malice in publishing the foregoing statements. As detailed herein, it was readily apparent at the time of publication that Mr. Hannity had devoted substantial, truthful coverage to the coronavirus, and his remarks attributed by you were made eight days after Mr. Joyce had already embarked on his cruise," Harder adds.
"Moreover, you were fully aware that this was the actual timeline, and in order to mislead your readers and support your false narrative, you withheld the date of Mr. Hannity’s comments from your story," Harder's letter also says.
The letter goes on to list a number of other New York Times stories Harder says are "instances of your ongoing campaign to personally attack Mr. Hannity by mischaracterizing and making false statements with respect to his coverage of the coronavirus pandemic."
Hannity also criticized Bellafante for underplaying the virus in a tweet she sent in late February.
“I fundamentally don’t understand the panic: incidence of the disease is declining in China. Virus is not deadly in vast majority of cases. Production and so on will slow down and will obviously rebound," Bellafante tweeted to her followers on Feb. 27.
I fundamentally don't understand the panic: incidence of the disease is declining in China. Virus is not deadly in vast majority of cases. Production and so on will slow down and will obviously rebound. cc: @opinion_joe— Ginia Bellafante (@GiniaNYT) February 27, 2020
The Hill has reached out to Fox News for comment.