The New York Times last month published a controversial 2,500-word report raising questions about whether Joe Biden used his position as vice president to meddle in Ukrainian politics for the benefit of a company that employed his son.
Now one of the piece’s authors has announced she has taken a job as the new Ukrainian president’s spokesperson—sparking a new round of criticism of the Times’ story.
“If you want changes—make them. I am glad to join Volodymyr Zelensky’s team. We will do everything possible to be as open to the media and society as we can,” Iuliia Mendel said Monday in a press release.
Her May 1 Times piece detailed how in 2016, then-Vice President Biden successfully pushed Ukraine to oust Viktor Shokin, the country’s top prosecutor who’d been criticized by the U.S. as an impediment to corruption reform. The story suggested the possibility that Biden was motivated to push for Shokin’s removal because the prosecutor investigated the head of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company where the veep’s son Hunter Biden was a board member.
The story noted that no evidence was found to corroborate the suggestion that Biden intervened to help his son. But Mendel and her colleagues noted how the alleged conflict of interest was being pushed by Rudy Giuliani, a top ally of and personal lawyer to President Trump who once claimed on TV that Biden “bribed” Ukrainian officials.
As a result, Mendel’s piece was widely criticized by Biden allies and other news outlets. The Washington Post’s media critic Erik Wemple highlighted a section of the Times report which noted that the Obama administration actually backed Shokin’s probe of Burisma Holdings’ owner, Mykola Zlochevsky.
And Bloomberg cast doubt on the Times’ timeline of events, noting that Biden advocated for ousting the prosecutor long after his probe into the younger Biden’s employer had supposedly become “dormant.” Bloomberg also noted that while the Times reported that Ukraine’s current prosecutor general had re-opened the investigation into Zlochevsky, the prosecutor general’s spokesperson said they had not. (A subsequent Bloomberg piece said the current prosecutor general was still investigating Zlochevsky.)
Biden’s campaign declined to comment on Monday, but in a tweet, the 2020 candidate’s senior adviser Symone Sanders admonished the Times.
“The fact that the NYTs acted as a willing agent for the Trump White House’s lies and defended the paper’s publishing of them, makes this even more eyebrow raising. Have folks learned ANYTHING from the last presidential election?” she tweeted Monday.
Mendel wrote her last story for The New York Times about Zelensky, her new boss, several weeks ago.
In a statement, the Times defended its reporting, saying Mendel had not applied for the spokesperson job before the paper published its Biden story.
“Editors are confident that despite the conflict that should have been disclosed, her reporting—including her work on our recent Hunter Biden story—was fair and accurate,” the paper said.