Want to shake hands hands or share pizza with Fox and Friends personality Pete Hegseth? Then the following may be useful information:
Fox News’ @PeteHegseth admits, unprompted, that he hasn’t washed his hands in 10 years.
“Germs are not a real thing,” Pete says. “I can’t see them, therefore they’re not real.” pic.twitter.com/9hsAb9YA9j
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 10, 2019
Yes, you heard that correctly. On the Fox and Friends segment attached to the Tweet, Hegseth claimed, “I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years.” Not 10 minutes, not 10 hours, not even 10 days. Ten years.
He reemphasized this by saying, “Really, I don’t really wash my hands ever,” which is even longer than 10 years.
Not exactly the type of thing that you want to hear at a party, or at a meal, or at work, or pretty much any situation on the Planet Earth.
Why on Earth would you not wash your hands ever? Hegseth explained, “I inoculate myself. Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore they’re not real.”
Inoculate himself? What the heck does that mean? Presumably he means the following definition of inoculate, provided by Dictionary.com: “to implant (a disease agent or antigen) in a person, animal, or plant to produce a disease for study or to stimulate disease resistance.” In this case, inoculate essentially means vaccinate. If he doesn’t believe that germs are a real thing, what exactly is he inoculating himself with and how? Pizza?
Moreover, just because you can’t see something with your naked eyes doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. For example, you can’t see someone’s internal feelings, Hegseth’s brain, or nuclear energy with your naked eyes, but all three reportedly exist. Plus, there is something called a microscope that will allow you to see germs like bacteria. That’s why bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other germs are also called “microbes.” Otherwise, they’d be “macrobes”, “see-obes”, or “in-plain-sight-obes.” If germs were not real, then what the heck are microbiologists doing every day?
The show’s co-host, Jedediah Bila, then asked, “So you’re becoming immune to all the bacteria?” Hegseth replied. “Exactly, I can’t get sick.” Alert the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You may have finally found the human who can’t get sick. Time for some testing. Oh, but there may be someone else too. Bila added that: “My dad has that theory too.”
Hegseth further pointed out,“Look, these hands look pretty clean to me,” referring to his hands.
This was from the man whom the Trump administration had considered a leading candidate to replace David Shulkin as the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to Lisa Rein reporting for The Washington Post. This would have meant that he would have been in charge of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which according to the VA website, “is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,250 health care facilities, including 172 VA Medical Centers and 1,069 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics) to over 9 million Veterans enrolled in the VA .” Incidentally, Ben Guarino had quoted for The Washington Post President Donald Trump as saying, “I’m also very much of a germaphobe,” and pointed out that “Trump has called shaking hands a ‘barbaric’ practice, fearing the flu and ‘all sorts of things.’” All of this would have made a confirmation handshake between Trump and Hegseth very interesting had Hegseth been chosen as the VA Secretary. But alas, Hegseth did not get that far.
Let’s think about what could have happened to Hegseth’s hands over the past decade. Published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, a study analyzing data from 4,775 people in the U.S. found that 95.9% of people poop from three to 21 times each week. Assuming that Hegseth would fall within this normal poop group, since 10 years means 520 weeks, Hegseth would have hit the can somewhere between 1,560 and 10, 920 times over the past decade. That then would have been the number of times he did not wash his hands after doing the plop. I feces you not, or maybe in this case feces you yes.
Feces on the hands is not good. There is a reason why poop stinks. It’s dirty and teeming with microbes. For example, a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that just one gram of human poop can include one trillion germs. If you don’t think that poop is dirty, please just stay away and don’t touch my food.
Then there is the study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry that found that 91% of adults surveyed in Dane County, Wisconsin, pick their nose. Now, unless Wisconsin for some reason has an unusually high proportion of nose pickers, it is safe to say that a large percentage of people have done some nostril drilling at some point over the past 10 years. The insides of your nose are also filled with bacteria. A study from 1941 (yes, 1941) confirmed this. Add booger bacteria to what can be on your hands if you don’t wash them.
These are but two activities that can transfer microbes to your hands. There is a whole lot of adjusting, scratching, and digging that people do throughout the day. Plus, there are the handshakes, the touching of surfaces, the touching of shoes, the ground, and garbage, and many, many other dirty, dirty things. Your hands can get very filthy very quickly.
Then you can easily transfer these microbes to whatever you happen to touch. Think about the number of times you rub your eyes, nose, and mouth each day or touch food and anything else that goes into your mouth. Also, think about the other people in your life and what you may be transferring to them with your hands.
Many, many, many scientific studies have shown how washing your hands reduces your risk of disease. The CDC has a website summarizing some of this evidence for those who still inexplicably don’t believe in handwashing. For example, the website cites studies showing that “handwashing education in the community”:
Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%.
Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%.
Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%.
Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%
This was a missed opportunity for Fox and Friends to reinforce how wrong it is to believe that germs are not real. Again, anyone who peers into a microscope, performs a high-school-level laboratory experiment with a culture dish, or even leaves food out too long, can clearly see evidence that germs exist. Handwashing is a clearly established, proven by science, important health and public health measure. You don’t want people preparing your food, handling your children, or handling you to not wash their hands. Science is science. You can’t just wash your hands of science when making statements on a news show to the public.
Addendum: After I had originally published this story, Jaclyn Giuliano for FOX News reached out, indicating that “Pete was joking.” After the Fox and Friends segment aired and got a reaction on the Twitterverse, Hegseth told Ben Tobin writing for USA Today, “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. If you look at Ed and Jedediah’s reaction, they are laughing like we are [on] every show.”
He added, “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. I take care of myself and all that, but I don’t obsess over everything all the time.” Of note, Dictionary.com defines “half-hearted” as “having or showing little enthusiasm.” This is a bit different from the term “light-hearted.”
Regardless, watch the video and determine for yourself whether he and the show made it clear at the time that Hegseth was indeed joking. I am assuming that Hegseth’s mention of sanitizing “19,000 times a day” was an exaggeration or a “half-hearted” joke because that would come out to sanitizing over 18 times a minute, assuming 7 hours of sleep a day. Do any scientific studies really indicate that people are washing their hands too much? In fact, studies have suggested the opposite: that people are not washing their hands enough. That’s why there are public health campaigns such as the Clean Hands Count Campaign and #HandwashingHeroes Social Media Campaign to encourage more handwashing with soap and water, which can be more effective than hand sanitizer at removing dirt and germs. More and better handwashing could literally be a life saver for many. Therefore, it would be good to have a helping hand in increasing handwashing rates.