Another week, another viral “story” going around with a headline that doesn’t quite match the actual story.
A few weeks ago, the internet lost its collective mind over #SmirkGate and again just last week with #NeesonGate. And because the internet apparently has an extremely short term memory when it comes to being duped by misleading headlines, now we’re seeing headlines for Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth saying that he hasn’t washed his hands in 10 years, because “germs are not a real thing.
Raw Story was the first article I saw about this in my news feed, and according to Facebook’s debugger tool (a tool that publishers use to see what Facebook’s page scraper sees, to preview how their content will look on Facebook, and to see very basic stats) it has over 148,000 likes, comments, and shares as of this writing.
I’ll admit it’s a hell of a headline, and even funnier story given everything about it. Here’s the story as pitched by Raw Story:
Fox News host Pete Hegseth explained on Sunday that he doesn’t wash his hands because “germs are not a real thing.”
Following a commercial break, Fox & Friends co-host Jedediah Bila revealed that Hegseth had been munching on day-old pizza that was left on the set.
“Pizza Hut lasts for a long time,” Hegseth replied, defending himself. “My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air. I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years. Really, I don’t really wash my hands ever.”
“I inoculate myself,” he continued. “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.”
Hegseth argued that his unsanitary habit leaves him immune to sickness.
“These hands look pretty clean to me,” he remarked.
That entire section, from start to finish, is the entire “article” on Raw Story.
Oh, they also embedded the video at the bottom:
Am I watching the same video as everybody else who is sharing this?
The transcription of the events make it read as if he’s being serious. I saw a few atheist activists pointing out Pete’s obviously flawed logic with “I can’t see them, therefore they’re not real” and god. Yes, that would be a solid slam against him, if he was being serious.
— Pete Hegseth (@PeteHegseth) February 10, 2019
They were coming back from a break, and it’s typical for TV hosts to joke around with each other. He’s very clearly joking.
To paraphrase the President from an hour ago:
The Media is so self righteous and ANGRY! Loosen up and have some fun. The Country is doing well (as is my health!)
P.S. I also support drinking from garden hoses & riding bikes w/o a helmet. Cue outrage…https://t.co/BubsAwBtFx
— Pete Hegseth (@PeteHegseth) February 11, 2019
His friends also found amusement with how the media spun it. Almost every article I read about it failed to address the fact that he was joking – because they knowingly set it up in a manner that made it seem as though Hegseth was being genuine.
@PeteHegseth Congrats on trolling millions w/ your deadpan humor!
Haters thinking u r serious have reached a new level of stupid.
Hatred causes ignorance.
Ignorance causes reactions to an obviously self-deprecating joke like it’s as serious as the Declaration of Independence
— Ryan Mauro (@ryanmauro) February 11, 2019
He wasn’t even trying to “troll” people here, though. People were happy to run with the version of a story that suits their personal biases before checking facts. Publishers know this, and even happier to let people share away while raking in ad revenue, regardless of what the truth actually is.
Next time before sharing a story that feels too good/funny to be true, take a second to read it or watch the source video before sharing. I thought that this story about Pete Hegseth was going to be hilarious when I opened the link, but when I watched the video, I realized he was joking, which is why I resisted the urge of writing it up and posting the original “story” because at the end of the day, it’s really just a nothingburger.
And look, I’m not defending Fox News. I very much dislike Fox News. I also very much dislike when people buy into fake news and spread it as if it’s true. It plays right into the “fake news” narrative Trump supporters always vomit into comment sections.
There are plenty of things to make fun of Fox News for. This is not one of those things.
If we decide that facts don’t matter, we let fake news win.