It’s time to pay attention to the Hunter Biden story.
For three years, most temperate Americans living outside the Fox News bubble have largely ignored the controversies surrounding the President’s youngest son. The details seem too salacious for our prudish senses, the allegations hard to follow, and his journey through substance abuse and recovery something most Americans politely turn away from out of respect or empathy. Consider also that his most vociferous critics in media and politics are largely professional grandstanders with little credibility, and it’s understandable why many Americans have chosen to just ignore the Hunter Biden story altogether.
But with House Republicans now aggressively looking for a predicate upon which they can impeach President Joe Biden, it’s time Americans begin to identify from this story the sharp contrasts between truth, lies, and innuendo.
The reason for the story’s original promotion and saturation is clear. Donald Trump and Republican operatives were desperate to win reelection in 2020 and sought to handicap the strength of Joe Biden’s candidacy, preferring instead to face off in a general election against a more progressive Democratic alternative. As part of their efforts, Republican operatives got their hands on information related to Hunter Biden’s professional and personal life, some true, some apparently manufactured.
Enter Fox News, the New York Post, and a plethora of underground conservative media platforms who realized they were sitting on a gold mine of election cycle profit by chasing the most salacious Hunter Biden material and platforming the wildest, though often inaccurate, accusations against him. From there a political story with its roots in Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and a cast of inexperienced political miscreants more akin to a burlesque carnival than mainstream media took hold. Accusations were curated from legally suspicious trafficked material, amplified, and accepted as fact by Republican voters and lawmakers.
The strategy wasn’t a new one. In fact, it directly replicated a previous political takedown associated with Roger Stone — that of Sen. Edmund Muskie on behalf of Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election. In that race, the incumbent Republican President known for his scorched earth politics worried that Muskie was increasingly seen as a voice of reason in a time of political turbulence and great national divide. Nixon and team instead preferred to face the more progressive Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. To accomplish this matchup, the Nixon team orchestrated the publication of a fraudulent letter two weeks before the New Hampshire primary, attacking Muskie’s wife as a ‘drunkard’ and accusing the couple of being ‘racially intolerant’. Senator Muskie succumbed to his anger on the campaign trail as voters succumbed to the big lie, imploding his candidacy and propelling Nixon to a general election landslide victory over McGovern.
But in the 2020 attacks against Hunter and Joe Biden, neither father nor son took the bait. Candidate Biden remained disciplined in his message to ‘restore the soul of America’, and Hunter Biden clearly stuck to the advice of counsel and largely avoided public comment. As a result, Joe Biden navigated his 2020 path to the White House without interruption.
But in the absence of return fire from the Bidens, and with mainstream media treading lightly on the story’s implications, Republicans seized on this free space. The Republican Chair of the House Oversight Committee now insinuates Hunter Biden may be laundering money for the Chinese by way of diamonds and art, calling the younger Biden a “corrupt national security threat.” Tucker Carlson platformed a Russian state media campaign alleging Hunter Biden funded dangerous biolabs in Ukraine, creating a pretext for Russian invasion in 2022. Still others have alleged Hunter Biden engaged in sex trafficking, akin to the dangerously false ‘pizzagate’ allegations made against Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair during the 2016 election.
The Republican dirty trick narrative on the younger Biden stuck — Hunter Biden is now seen by many as merely the clumsy son of a powerful pol, engaging in deviant drug and sex behaviors, while improperly leveraging his proximity to power to secure lucrative overseas contracts.
But Republicans haven’t stopped there. Their goal, after all, is to kneecap Joe Biden, weakening him in the eyes of American voters going into 2024, or hoping they can inflict such deeply personal cost to the President that he reconsiders his own reelection.
In crossing this broad innuendo gap from the son to the father, Chairman Comer now alleges the President himself engaged in “abuse of the highest order.” Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of House GOP Leadership, has repeatedly declared Joe Biden ‘compromised’. Marjorie Taylor Greene, in filing an impeachment article against the President, names his son as the reason why, declaring the sitting President a ‘threat to national security’.
But in a moment of raw honesty, Rep. Jim Jordan, now Chair of the House Judiciary Committee which holds jurisdiction over impeachment articles against a President, seemed to confess the entire GOP plot behind this ruse. The purpose of the House GOP investigations, Jordan declared at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference, is to “frame up the 2024 race, when I hope and I think President Trump is going to run again. And we need to make sure that he wins.”
Along the way, responsible news outlets did their part to keep Republican falsehoods and hyperbole in check. Virtually all leading publications, including Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, have largely dispensed of the most egregious accusations against Joe and Hunter Biden, providing an extensive thread of fact checking that dismisses the wildest storylines amplified by Republicans.
That’s where the American voter now comes in. It’s time for all Americans to pay attention to the Hunter Biden story. And it’s time for one very important reason: House Republicans are counting on most of us to continue to turn away and ultimately accept the GOP’s innuendo campaign against Hunter Biden as sufficient cause to topple the President himself.
As an early primer, even a cursory glance at the GOP’s crusade against Hunter Biden shows its foundation crumbling from the start.
First, the GOP paints Hunter Biden as wholly unqualified in law and business, suggesting as preposterous that he would find professional success on his own merits. The truth is Hunter Biden was educated at Georgetown University and received his law degree from Yale. He quickly rose to become a Vice President at the financial powerhouse MBNA before joining the Commerce Department during the Bill Clinton Administration. He served as Vice Chair of Amtrak following appointment by President George W. Bush, and later served as Chair of the World Food Program, leading one of the world’s largest humanitarian relief organizations. Along the way, he served as counsel to a large Washington D.C. law firm, founded his own firm, and acquired an international hedge fund within which he would conduct business overseas. Hunter Biden by all objective accounts was exceedingly accomplished and well qualified to engage in international business, law, and finance.
Second, the GOP repeatedly amplifies Hunter Biden’s personal journey through addiction and recovery, something he candidly chronicled in his book Beautiful Things. But very simply, the GOP doesn’t get to do that. The story of addiction and recovery is ultimately a noble one, but also a deeply personal one. It’s not a political matter. If the GOP chooses to make it one, they should be prepared for what stories it opens up within their own caucus.
Which leads to the third, and most critical point — the legal charges against the younger Biden. The concurrence of media reporting suggests Hunter Biden faces two potential charges related to his private conduct, both arising during his time of addiction and substance abuse. One stems from a failure to pay his personal taxes, something now since remedied but nonetheless providing an open legal question as to whether his failure to pay amounted to criminal tax evasion. The second charge relates to his wrongly affirming on a gun purchase application that he in fact was not under the influence of illicit drugs, a legal charge often only brought in addition to other charges of a violent crime. These tax and firearm charges, if accurately reported, appear straightforward. Prosecutors will determine whether to bring personal charges against Hunter Biden, and Biden presumably through counsel will provide a plea or defense until the matters are fully adjudicated. Neither raise a political question nor reach the President of the United States.
The collapse of GOP innuendo around the previous three elements leaves House Republicans and conservative media with only one avenue of attack, and it’s the one they want the most, their most scandalous and grave — that Hunter and Joe Biden are compromised. To which the appropriate response from voters and the media should be simple but of strong posture. Prove it. Put up or shut up. Draw the factual narrative without innuendo and prove your allegation. Because it is clear from reporting that a federal grand jury convened during the Trump Administration to investigate such an allegation against Hunter Biden has proven unable to reach such an inference.
As House Republicans and conservative media proceed with their attacks in the coming weeks and months, more public unraveling will inevitably ensue. Did the Republican dirty tricks campaign really start at a simple laptop repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware or were Giuliani and others in possession of Hunter Biden information through other means? Why has the laptop repairman now disavowed content that was apparently added after he circulated the initial laptop information he mined? Does Delaware law really allow for the possession of Hunter Biden’s information by others or was it illegally obtained and used against a private citizen for illegal purposes? If the grand jury adjourns with no charges of corrupt activity, do House Republicans really maintain that Marjorie Taylor Greene, Elise Stefanik, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, James Comer, Jim Jordan and others can make a convincing legal argument to the contrary? The answers appear obvious.
The Hunter Biden legal team showed last week that its prepared to play hardball, sending criminal referral inquiries to the Department of Justice and the Delaware Attorney General. House Republicans might be wise to tread lightly with the information they’ve been fed, and perhaps temper their allegations and expectations a bit before launching into a broadside against Joe and Hunter Biden. But wisdom has never been their strength.
For many Americans, Hunter Biden may never be a sympathetic figure. For others, his story of addiction, recovery, and finding fulfillment in family, art, and a renewed life is exactly the inspiration they need. Wherever one arrives on his personal story, it’s time we all stand up and pay attention, because Republicans could be on the brink of using his story to march toward impeachment of the President.
Republicans today are relishing the opportunity to play prosecutor before the cameras, but they seem to forget that it’s the American people who get to be the ultimate jury. It’s time the jury insist on the facts.