Fox News host Pete Hegseth says all the handwringing on Twitter about the fact he doesn’t wash his hands was much ado about nothing.
On Fox and Friends Sunday morning, Hegseth told his co-hosts, Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila, that he didn’t believe in the sanitary activity. The admission was prompted by Bila calling out Hegseth for eating leftover day-old pizza on the set.
“My 2019 resolution is to say things on-air that I say off-air,” Hegseth said to his co-hosts. “‘I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years.”
As Henry and Bila laughed at this proclamation, Hegseth doubled down: “I inoculate myself,” he said. “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them; therefore, they’re not real.”
However, Fox News spokesperson Jaclyn Giuliano told USA TODAY that Hegseth “was joking,” pointing to a Twitter chain between Hegseth and MSNBC host Chris Hayes.
Hayes replied to a video of Hegseth’s comments by saying “he’s….pretty clearly joking?” Hegseth retweeted Hayes’s post, adding, “When even @chrislhayes can see the obvious…Twitter really has come full circle.”
Previously, Hegseth commented on Twitter about hand washing. Following a tweet by user @smittymhs’s defending the Fox News host, Hegseth retweeted the post, adding “#DontWash.”
Still, Hegseth says it should have been obvious that he was joking. “We’re on a show and we have fun and we banter and I’m like, eh, you know, maybe I haven’t washed my hands for 10 years,” he told USA TODAY. “If you look at Ed and Jedediah’s reaction, they are laughing like we are (on) every show.”
Hegseth says the joke is a call-out to germ obsessors to lighten up. “My half-hearted commentary to the point is, we live in a society where people walk around with bottles of Purell in their pockets, and they sanitize 19,000 times a day as if that’s going to save their life,” he said. “I take care of myself and all that, but I don’t obsess over everything all the time.”
The whole episode is a signal about how the Twitterverse can overreact, he says.
After the incident got attention, Hegseth said he was “sitting back and literally watching my (Twitter) feed and laughing. It’s ridiculous to me because of how people take literal and serious certain things and their heads explode. It’s ridiculous.”
Added Hegseth: “The next thing that will happen they are going to be calling my biology professor at Princeton (and ask) ‘When Pete was a student in your class, did he believe germs were real?’ So dumb.”
For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing your hands is no laughing matter. As the nation’s health protection agency notes, 1 gram of human feces, which is about the weight of a paper clip, can contain 1 trillion germs.
The CDC states that the routine washing of hands with soap and clean, running water is crucial in battling against sickness and the spread of diseases.
If you stop washing your hands, it will have an effect on your health and the health of others around you, according to Jamin Brahmbhatt, a physician at Orlando Health.
“Washing your hands is the easiest way to protect yourself and others from spreading bugs that can live on your hands,” Brahmbhatt previously told USA TODAY. “We can get germs on our hands by touching other parts of our body, sneezing or coughing, touching other people or things like animals or meat.”
Contributing: Mike Snider
Follow USA TODAY intern Ben Tobin on Twitter: @TobinBen