When John Paul Mac Isaac, a computer repairman from Delaware, first spoke to reporters about how he ended up in the middle of one of the most politically controversial sagas of 2020, he said he handed over what he believed to be Hunter Biden’s laptop to the FBI because he felt it was his civic duty to do so. Mac Isaac, in his telling, was overwhelmed and frightened, but also a whistleblower who wanted to help his country.
“I saw stuff that made me uncomfortable. I felt afraid,” he told reporters. “And I just wanted it to go away.”
What Mac Isaac left out of his recounting is that he also actively tried to push the story of the Hunter Biden laptops into the press after contacting the FBI. The Daily Beast has learned that Mac Isaac sought out a family member to help put him in touch with a conservative media personality who could disseminate contents of the hard drive to the public.
Eventually, Mac Isaac connected with Ken LaCorte, a former Fox News executive who effectively killed a story about the hush money deal between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump in 2016. LaCorte told The Daily Beast this week that someone in Mac Isaac’s family reached out to a friend, a former News Corp employee, who then got in touch with him to make the connection with Mac Isaac.
LaCorte, who has written about his conversations with Mac Isaac, wouldn’t provide the names of either individual who helped make the connection but said that the Mac Isaac family member knew the News Corp employee socially. Two other individuals familiar with the situation said Mac Isaac communicated with his father, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, about the laptop, its contents, and going to the FBI.
“I trust them,” Mac Isaac said of the person he reached out to for help. “They are better at this political spy press thing than I am. I wanted to get it out of the store and I wanted to do it safely. So I wanted someone who could vet who they are talking to and get a good vibe about them before they pass them over to me.” Mac Isaac later said he felt as though the FBI was trying to cover up the story behind the laptops.
The outreach Mac Isaac made that ultimately resulted in the Hunter Biden materials reaching LaCorte add a new layer to an already hazy, difficult to follow story surrounding the laptops purportedly belonging to the former vice president’s son. And they suggest that one of the motivating factors at play was not—as Mac Isaac first insinuated—just a simple desire for law enforcement to look into potentially nefarious behavior, but for that behavior to be surfaced publicly prior to the November elections.
If LaCorte did receive the materials because of social connections, it was a remarkable instance of primary documents falling into the lap of an editorially-sympathetic media personality.
Joining Fox in the late '90s, LaCorte quickly became one of network chief Roger Ailes’ most trusted acolytes, climbing the ranks until he eventually became the VP of Fox News Digital in 2006. Ailes enlisted LaCorte in 2011 to be part of his “Black Room,” a secretive unit used to conduct surveillance campaigns against both Fox News employees and perceived rivals of the network. Alongside Fox News contributor Jim Pinkerton, Ailes personal lawyer Peter Johnson Jr., and consultant Bert Solivan, LaCorte engaged in negative PR campaigns to promote Ailes’ personal grievances against journalists and Fox News critics.
Besides setting up websites to specifically attack reporters, the Black Room campaign also dispatched private investigators to follow journalists and prepare dossiers that would be leaked to blogs and news sites.
LaCorte, however, became most infamous for his role in killing the Daniels story before the 2016 election. Fox News reporter Diana Falzone—now a contributor for The Daily Beast—filed a story in October 2016 that included an on-the-record statement from Daniels’ manager Gina Rodriguez confirming that the adult film star had engaged in a sexual relationship with Trump. The report never saw the light of day.
LaCorte has repeatedly defended his decision not to publish the story, claiming Falzone didn’t have the evidence to back it up despite the confirmation from Rodriguez. The New Yorker, however, reported in March 2019 that LaCorte told Falzone the following: “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert [Murdoch] wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.”
After being pushed out of Fox News in Nov. 2016, which he contends was part of a post-Ailes “corporate purge” by the network, LaCorte eventually announced he was launching a news site, alongside former Fox News executive editor John Moody, called LaCorte News. He also built a network of spammy hyperpartisan sites manned by Macedonian bloggers, aping the Russian disinformation and interference tactics used throughout the 2016 election.
The sites, which employed one writer who helped push the conspiracy theory about a Hillary Clinton-led pedophile ring, repeatedly engaged in pushing fake news and hyperbolic fearmongering to inflame political tensions.
LaCorte, however, defended operating the sites under the guise that he needed to raise revenue in order to fund his legitimate journalistic venture, which he referred to as a “digital news start-up with the stated goal of restoring faith in the media.”
“I wanted to try to find middle ground,” he declared. “Unfortunately, the things that work best right now are hyperactive politics.”
From a strictly journalistic standpoint, LaCorte’s coverage of the Hunter Biden emails suggest that his reach is somewhat limited. Though he was among the first to report on the contents, his work got virtually no visibility among the mainstream press.
As Media Matters reported, the first intimation that LaCorte had material came via a posting he made to the /r/Conservative page on Reddit October 15, the day after the New York Post published its original story on the laptops. In that posting, LaCorte revealed that he had primary documents and spoke glowingly of Mac Isaac.
"I've spoken many times with the shop owner and read all of the 29 emails I have downloadable at Media Action Network," he wrote. "I found John Paul, the shop owner, to be highly credible."
That same day, LaCorte's Media Action Network website published 29 PDFs allegedly containing emails sent to Hunter Biden’s iCloud address. Metadata found in a zip file published on the site shows the file was created on the evening of October 14, hours after the New York Post’s initial story was published.
LaCorte also published a PDF copy of the subpoena Mac Isaac said he received from the FBI for the hard drives. LaCorte’s copy of the subpoena appears to be a unique photocopy not derived from the photographs of the subpoena published by Fox, The Daily Mail, or the New York Post.
Less than a week later, LaCorte was promoting the alleged emails once again, this time on an Ask Me Anything forum. In it, he revealed that he had been helping out Mac Isaac before the New York Post published its initial story. “I had dozens of the emails and many conversations with him,” he explained.
He also made another revelation that pointed to Mac Isaac’s interest in getting the Hunter Biden emails publicity. In addition to sending the materials to the FBI and LaCorte himself, Mac Isaac had, according to LaPorte, “sent a few notices to some rightwing outlets, who ignored him.”
The Daily Beast has made several attempts to revisit Mac Isaac at his shop in Wilmington to ask questions about his interactions with LaCorte. Both he and his lawyer have refused to comment.
Shortly after the original New York Post story was published, a sign appeared outside Mac Isaac’s shop in Trolley Square. It reads: “We the people. Thank you! #Patriot.”