My flabber is now gasted

How stunningly ignorant are Fox News hosts? Let’s see Pete Hegseth’s disgusting confession:

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.

Uh…say what?

I remember when my father came home, he had this can of gritty gray goop that was basically an industrial degreaser, and also a pumice stone, that he’d use to scrub the grime out of his hands. Maybe Hegseth’s problem is that he’s never really worked? (Also, the sharp, astringent smell of that stuff is one of the things I remember about my dad. I also know that it really bugged him that his hands were calloused and dark with hard work.)

As for the germs “not real” remark, when I was doing animal surgeries long ago, I learned how to do a thorough scrub — it mattered. The first time you have to scrub pus out of an incision on a kitten you learn to take sterile technique seriously.

Of course, you can see germs. All you need is a good microscope. One of the banes of my experiments with grasshopper embryos was that you really did require sterile technique to work with them, because there was so much yolky tastiness that bacteria would thrive on. I’d sterilize all the work surfaces with alcohol, I’d use sterile media, I would wipe down the microscope objectives with alcohol, and still when doing multi-hour observations I’d see the medium grow cloudy, I’d see the little nests of bacteria proliferate, I’d even watch grasshopper hemocytes dart in and phagocytize them. Germs are real.

It’s a routine experiment in microbiology classes to have students take swabs of various surfaces, including their hands, and then culture the results on a growth medium. It’s disgusting. Ask any microbiologist. I’ve been to conferences where you can spot the micro people: they’re the ones who wash their hands before they use the bathroom, and then wash them again when they leave.

I work with young people all the time — college students are not quite as bad as preschoolers, but you do get exposed to a lot of infectious agents. Years ago I found that I could reduce my frequency of illness by thoroughly scrubbing my hands first thing in the morning, and washing once again before I went home. It’s also routine before doing a lot of routine experiments: I scrub up before setting up fruit fly cultures, for instance, and I’ve noticed that my fly bottles have virtually no contamination compared to those of some of my students.

I do appreciate Hegseth confessing to how filthy and unsanitary he is. I guess I’ll have to refuse any requests to appear on Fox & Friends in the future.


  1. Louis says

    I’ve been to conferences where you can spot the micro people: they’re the ones who wash their hands before they use the bathroom, and then wash them again when they leave.

    Chemists do this.

    Not doing it is a mistake you make precisely once.


    P.S. The preview has the quote in Comic Sans. I THINK I remembered the right tags, but I am not trying to Comic Sans you, PZ. Perhaps I forgot the right ones…

  2. says

    Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

    -Jean Paul-Sartre

    I wonder if this is one of those moments, or if he’s really engaging in such Orwellian doublespeak as to use a word like “inoculate” while stating he doesn’t believe in germs?

  3. hemidactylus says

    Day old pizza is the best, but not left out at room temperature. I took microbiology in university. Being a germophobe I wash before and after using the restroom. But that doesn’t help much after recent contact with capsaicin. I also have had an unpleasant experience putting contact lenses in hours after eating spicy chicken wings and washing my hands. That stuff lingers.

    I recall hearing that overly clean environments when growing up may have downsides. Grime is good? Maybe it was growing up with dogs exposes you to antigens that help in the long run. Or speculation that some autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s may be from lack of parasite load.

    Having eaten fried chicken from a gas station and getting extremely ill afterward I appreciate the threat of foodborne pathogens, though I think an episode of Adam Ruins Everything disputed the fixation on shelf dates.

    Yum…spoilt milk. No thanks.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.
    I wonder if he’s immune to carbon monoxide.

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I found it good to wash my hands at work any time after I went to the main office before I retired. That an flu shots seemed to really do the trick.

  6. garnetstar says

    I wipe my hands down with rubbing alcohol, then wash them, between lectures and before lunch and when I get home.

    Teaching 625 students every semester gives me massive exposure, and the semester I avoid getting sick altogether is a rare one.

    But, the alcohol and hand washing helps a lot. I’d like to see Hegseth get through a semester with so many students without ever washing his hands! Not to mention, if his immunizations weren’t up-to-date, he’d be forced into belief in the “germs” that cause mono, pertussis, measles, and flu, as well.

  7. redwood says

    Wonder how all the people that shook hands with Hegseth in the past ten years feel. After the invevitable blowback, get ready for him to say he was only joking

  8. microraptor says

    Day old pizza?

    I once got a brutal case of food poisoning after eating a couple slices of pizza that had been left sitting out for a few hours (it was a pizza party at work and they’d brought it in early enough for the opening workers to get some on their lunch break while I was working the closing shift and took lunch three hours after they did).

    Also, I’ve found that Fox & Friends seems to somehow manage to stick out as abnormally stupid even by Faux News standards.

  9. Kevin Karplus says

    The main cleanliness habit I’ve picked up to avoid getting sick at work is using paper towels to open the bathroom door after washing my hands. I have heard that door handles are among the highest probability places for picking up infections—and I do see a lot of people with rather sketchy cleanliness using the bathroom.

    What bothers me is seeing lab gloves in the bathroom trash—what are people doing leaving the lab with their gloves still on?

  10. KG says

    Kevin Karplus@14,

    Connected with that, I wonder how the disease-causing microbes have managed to persuade the designers of public and institutional toilets (“restrooms” for the terminally euphemistic) and their clients to install electric hand-dryers rather than paper towels dispensers. What does such a microbe like better than a current of warm, damp air to spread around on? Is one of those creepy behaviour-modifying parasites responsible?

  11. says

    I’m hesitant to admit it on a biologist’s blog, but I’m totally the guy who would eat pizza that’s been out overnight. Basically, I do a quick mental calculation regarding the proximity of moisture and nutrients: any food based around broth or watery sauce is going in the drain/trash as soon as gets colder than body temperature, while something like a poké bowl with sushi-grade raw fish is going to get serious side-eye if not finished in 3 or 4 hours (assuming it starts at 40 F), fully cooked meats like fried chicken can sit for about 6 to 8 hours depending, and something like pizza can basically sit 12 hours and be edible by my estimation, but it’s definitely not going in the fridge after that long — eat it now or forever hold your peace. Cut those times in half if it’s outdoors.

    That said, in my past life as a Wal-mart grocery stocker I was also the only person I knew who actually took the food safety training seriously. At one point they were doing maintenance on the refrigeration system, and a section of open-air refrigerators unexpectedly went down along with the planned ones. Those refrigerators hadn’t been properly prepared with plastic wrap to hold in the cold air, and the temperature was well into the upper 50’s F before anything was done about it.

    It was the pre-packaged lunchmeat fridge in the Meat & Dairy department.

    I complained loudly to multiple managers about the 40F to 130F danger zone and listeria and such, they… did absolutely nothing, wrapped the 60 F fridge in plastic wrap, and left the meat on the shelf for consumers. I was just a lowly stocker and it wasn’t even my department, so what did I know? (Nevermind that that just meant I wasn’t inured to the bad practices there. To be fair, Meat & Dairy had generally better practices than those in my own department, Frozen: in Frozen, cases of food could sit out at room temperature for 2, 3, 4 hours at a time because it was faster to wheel it all out at once rather than bringing out a little bit of product at a time. It was made very clear to us from management that speed — and thus payroll hours — was the only consideration.)

    Anyway, I never heard any local news about a listeria outbreak after that, so either they got lucky in that no one got sick or they got lucky that no one figured out their food poisoning was due to poorly refrigerated Wal-mart lunch meat. Either way, they were happy because it meant they didn’t have to report a large loss to Bentonville, which was the only consequence worthy of consideration.

    “3492, we can drink more than you”

  12. unclefrogy says

    those gloves might be from the cleaners, the smart ones wear them
    the kind of work I do helps as I work away from people much of the time it has its down sides but the low exposure is not one of them. I am not always able to was so much but do keep my hands off of my damp places like eyes and lips before I am able to wash.
    My bet is that they talk so much bull shit all the time that he was being a smart ass and laughing at the fools who waatch thinking they will believe any damn thing.
    yes fox news is not real news it’s TV
    uncle frogy

  13. Onamission5 says

    unclefrogy@17: That’s what I was thinking, too. I wear disposable gloves to clean the restroom at work, both to protect myself and because I also prepare uncooked food. Not that I don’t wash my hands, I wash them constantly and that include after cleaning the restroom, but despite short nails and regular scrubbing one never knows what could end up hitching a ride from toilet scrubber to the lip of a customer’s wine glass. Best avoided altogether.

  14. zenlike says

    @Cat Mara,
    Related to the comic, I present the following perfect reply someone gave on his twitter:
    “Eating E. coli to own the libs.”

    Of course, on the same twitter, Pete has now retreated to the always predictable “lol just joking” position. Of course, after he first doubled down on his no washing hand position. Because consistency or taking responsibility for ones words is for cucks, I can only presume.

  15. woozy says

    “My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air.”

    I thought the idea of resolutions was to do things that will make things better. Acting at work the way you act at home does not make anything better. Might as well resolve to fart or pick your nose in public more.

    And… yuck.

  16. says

    While pizza rarely lasts through the night, I usually have no qualms eating it in the morning…

    People who cook with spicy peppers also do this.

    I once watched a documentary about the famous Hungarian Paprika and the older people told that before the advent of latex gloves, the men would tie a piece of string around their dicks when harvesting and preparing the peppers, so they wouldn’t have to touch their dicks if they needed to pee. If they didn’t tuck their string away properly the women would happily give them a pull.

  17. nomdeplume says

    Not believing in things you can’t see is the classic anti-science stance of the Fox universe and its friends – applies to climate change, evolution, air pollution, any science that could conceivably get in the way of capitalism.

  18. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Not much of a surprise. I mean, it is extreme, but if you told me that “a mainstream media host” said this and then asked me which channel he was on, I would’ve guessed Fox News, of course.

  19. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    FOX employs people so dangerously incompetent it threatens even other FOX employees? Say it ain’t so!

    At least this time his dirty hands seem to be staying in his own pizza, so to speak.

  20. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says


    When I first began going to forest fires back in 2000, low grade stomach stomach problems — glass shards, loose bowels, constipated diarrhea (if you have never experienced that ‘pleasure’, thpppt! and I hope you never do), stomach upset, gas, etc — were normal after spending a week at a fire camp. We all used porta-potties. We all, or almost all, immediately stopped at the hand-wash station located right next to any line of porta-potties to wash our hands with foot-pumped cold water and soap. There was a multi-sink hand-wash station at the entrance to the mess tent and there was always someone watching to remind you to wash your hands. But the camp crud was always there. And I knew that, for me, it would show up on day six or seven. It was never enough to disable me, never enough to make me miss work, but it was there. Even with Imodium, it was there.

    Then, in about 2009, under a memo from the CDC working with NIFC, sanitizer bottles were added to every hand-wash station and to the door of every porta potty. And the camp crud disappeared. I never had camp crud again (I did, on occasion, have a bit of the traveler’s blues which has more to do with sleep patterns and diet changes than bacteria). Camp crud became a thing of the past. Not washing your hands invites bacteria. As does not sterilizing things.

    One of the women I know, from another park, is on an Incident Command team. Apparently, DoA, looking for ways to save money at forest fires, raised a short-lived stink about fire camps using both hand-wash stations and bottles of sterilizer. She drafted one of the responses, explaining that the cost is more than offset by increases in availability for assignments and work.

  21. mountainbob says

    Touring in India a few years ago our group had to form a line to access the men’s room before lunch. We were all in need of the pause, but facilities were limited and we were not able to wash before using the urinal. I was thinking, I know where my penis has been – and under what conditions – all morning; I’m not at all certain about my hands. If I could only wash once, I’d prefer to do it before the go.