The Irish Right-Wing Provocateurs Hellbent on Tormenting Hunter Biden
The duo behind the latest anti-Biden stunts have a long history of climate denial and corporate shilling. They’ve made many enemies, but in pro-Trump circles they’ve become stars.
These married Irish provocateurs moved to the United States more than a decade ago, published a book about a criminal abortionist, made money, made movies and wrote plays to own the libs and terminate “cancel culture,” became celebrity-darlings of the American right, and even spent quality time with their rough-hewn hero Donald Trump. (McAleer—like the 45th president, a coronavirus mask skeptic—confided recently to The Daily Beast: “I just got my Trump vaccine.”)
Not surprisingly—after years of creating a cottage industry out of climate-change denialism, corporate shilling, opposition to abortion rights, attacking the liberal establishment, and trafficking in the occasional alternative fact (accomplished with undeniable panache and an Irish knack for storytelling)—the duo have earned their share of enemies.
“They are grifters, plain and simple,” one of them, Kert Davies, founder and director of the Climate Investigations Center, told The Daily Beast. The latest publicly released tax returns for the couple’s two-year-old nonprofit, Unreported Story Society, show aggregate contributions and grants of $1,118,323, with McElhinney, as president, earning $100,000 in 2019, and McAleer taking $80,000 the previous year.
Those figures don’t account for speaking fees (between $5,000 and $10,000 for each, according to Speakerpedia), or the non-public production fees they pay themselves for their work on various projects such as 2018’s Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, a $2.3 million feature film starring former “Superman” actor Dean Cain as a Philadelphia detective.
“I enjoy working with them very much,” Cain, an occasional Fox News guest and branded Hollywood conservative, told The Daily Beast. Cain, who also starred in McAleer’s 2020 play FBI Lovebirds, is among the couple’s actor-pals, who also include right-wing firebrand Jon Voight.
“They certainly have an opinion and a point of view, but they’re not against hearing what we [actors] have to say. It’s a very clear dialogue,” Cain said. “They listen, but don’t always incorporate them or change things, but we have a great working relationship.”
McAleer and McElhinney’s 2018 nonprofit tax return also noted that they staged a play in San Francisco defending the apparently beleaguered oil giant Chevron against allegations “that the oil company destroyed the rainforest in Equador [sic] and poisened [sic] the natives. The play reveals how the plaintiffs led by an activist lawyer bribed the judge and ghostwrote the judgment and how the environmentalists and the media perpetuated the false allegations against Chevron.”
“So now,” Kert Davies added, “they are riding the back of the Trump loss and the Hunter Biden propaganda to raise millions” for their latest project, a feature film demonizing President Joe Biden and his prodigal son.
McAleer fired back: “Liberals really can’t comprehend that someone might disagree with them because they hold honest opinions. Because of their joyless intolerance and feelings of compassionate superiority, they just go straight to the ‘grifter’ insult which has the added advantage of not having to engage in arguments or have their beliefs tested.”
In late February 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country, Trump schmoozed for nearly an hour in the Oval Office with McAleer, McElhinney, and actors Cain and Kristy Swanson, the stars of McAleer’s play FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers, a theater piece, based on verbatim transcripts of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page’s private text messages and congressional testimony, that was presented at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
“He’s incredibly personable—which is really unusual, I think, for a politician on either side,” McElhinney said about Trump. “I think he’s genuinely interested in people. I’ve known politicians, even politicians in Ireland, who do this thing with their eyes where they look past your head to see if there’s somebody more interesting to talk to. He doesn’t do that.”
“Trump liked [the play] so much that he planned to have a performance of FBI Lovebirds in the Rose Garden late spring/early summer,” McAleer revealed. “Unfortunately the pandemic nixed it. It was very disappointing.”
The production was backed financially by Judicial Watch, the well-funded conservative organization that specializes in Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits to unearth alleged government corruption and malfeasance.
FBI Lovebirds “was a nice fit for us,” said longtime Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, who received a prominent “executive producer” credit for the play but claimed the level of Judicial Watch’s support, not yet publicly available, wasn’t massive. “A little goes a long way,” he told The Daily Beast.
McAleer and McElhinney insist that the bulk of their donations come from ordinary people—a claim treated with skepticism by investigative journalist Steve Horn, who in a two-part 2013 series for the environmental news site DeSmog pointed out that the couple had once belonged to a conservative film institute generously supported by right-wing angels, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, and had received substantial contributions from the anonymous conservative funding distributor Donors Trust and other entities related to the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers.
“This is a very Kevin Bacon style of attack—six degrees of funding always brings you to a billionaire,” McAleer retorted, noting that they severed connections with the Mercer-backed Motion Picture Institute in 2008.
Now McAleer and McElhinney are throwing themselves into a fresh new job: tormenting Hunter Biden and, by extension, Hunter’s dad who vanquished Trump in the November election.
“Mr. Biden, just a few questions!” McAleer yelled the other day through a bullhorn at a large, white-walled, modernistic house—which Hunter rents for a reported $17,500 a month—as he floated in a kayak in the Venice Canal in the trendy Los Angeles beach community where McAleer and McElhinney also live.
Aside from the bullhorn, he came prepared for his hoped-for confrontation: He was accompanied by a hired camera crew along with a second camera operated by the couple’s longtime collaborator, also an immigrant, Polish-born Magdalena Segieda; hostile questions were printed in giant typeface on posterboards which also displayed photographic blowups of supposedly incriminating documents.
“Hunter Biden! Did you lie on your gun background check?” McAleer yelled with the pronounced brogue that he hasn’t shed after nearly 14 years as a U.S. resident.
“He’s at the window! He’s at the window!” Segieda can be heard shouting as a human silhouette briefly appeared at a big porthole-shaped aperture on the third floor, then drew the curtains shut.
“I just saw you at the window there. Please answer some questions,” McAleer exhorted through the bullhorn. “Did you use the Secret Service to go get, retrieve, your gun from a dumpster? Should that not be investigated? Should you not answer questions on this? Do you think it’s appropriate that the president of the United States get 10 percent of your earnings from foreign entities? We just want to know: Is Joe Biden ‘the big guy’? Is Joe Biden ‘The Big Guy’? Is this your signature? Did you leave the laptop in to get fixed? Yes or no?”
This performance art stunt (celebrated by the New York Post, among other right-leaning outlets, and viewable on multiple platforms) was in the service of McAleer and McElhinney’s crowd-funding campaign to raise $2.5 million from future and past supporters on their email lists, and possibly financial backers among corporate donors and institutional conservatives, in order to make My Son Hunter, the working title of a fictional feature film whose screenplay—pitched to “expose the Biden family corruption!,” according to their fundraising blurb—is still in development.
Before jumping into the kayak, McAleer, a silver-haired 54-year-old, had buzzed the front gate of Hunter’s luxury rental, only to be thwarted by a mask-wearing Secret Service agent.
“We’re not going to be taking any questions,” the hard-bodied agent advised the paunchy Irishman.
“I’m not asking you questions. I want to ask Mr. Biden a question.”
“He’s not gonna take any visitors today. He’s not gonna come down.”
“He’s promoting a book at the moment.”
“I understand that.” But when McAleer pressed the buzzer again, the agent reached for his hand. “We’re not gonna hit this anymore.”
“OK, I’m fine,” McAleer said.
“You can stay here as long as you want, but we’re not gonna ask him any questions.”
“No, no, I’m good.”
“And we’re not gonna touch anything, OK?”
While McAleer tends to focus on Hunter’s allegedly corrupt business dealings—especially taking a very lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, with no visible expertise, while his father was Barack Obama’s vice president overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine—the 57-year-old McElhinney’s outrage explodes over Hunter’s decision to erase from his new memoir, Beautiful Things, a child born out of wedlock.
The 51-year-old Biden, a recovering addict who left his wife of 23 years in 2017 for a brief relationship with his late brother Beau’s widow, initially denied paternity of the baby born in August 2018 to a 27-year-old Arkansas woman, but last year agreed to pay child support when a court-ordered DNA test proved otherwise. His book names his three grown daughters but neglects to mention the baby.
“He certainly, in the midst of all of this, never learned humility,” McElhinney told The Daily Beast. “He’s very political. This is a guy who’s lining himself up to go for political office, you know?... In the book he talks about a suckling baby taken from the breast of its mother—that’s Trump, right? That he has the gall to say that when he abandoned, denied, ghosted… You can’t change history. He is the father of that child. And it’s despicable.”
While McElhinney acknowledged that Trump is hardly a saint, “I would like all the perfect people to line up and introduce themselves to me,” she said. “He’s extremely flawed. Extremely flawed!… But I’d love to meet these perfect people. Joe Biden has a grandchild that he has never met. I’ll take Trump over that every day.”
Hunter’s Hollywood publicist, Annett Wolf, said her client had nothing to say about McAleer, McElhinney, or their movie. “There’s nothing to respond to,” Wolf told The Daily Beast.
Speaking of Hollywood—and the #MeToo movement that has continued to grow there—McAleer has some stunning contrarian observations about alleged workplace-related sexual misconduct and convicted felon Harvey Weinstein.
“The #MeToo movement seems to be attacking a lot of human interaction, almost criminalizing human interaction now,” McAleer insisted. “When I look at the number of people whose careers are being ruined and what they’re alleged to have done—and these are people who I’m completely the opposite of politically—that’s called ‘clumsy courtship.’”
So loathsome predator Weinstein—who is serving a 23-year sentence after a New York jury found him guilty of first-degree criminal sexual assault and third-degree rape, and was indicted two weeks ago on 11 counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles—was railroaded into prison?
“Oh, 100 percent!” McAleer responded. “The guy shouldn’t be in prison. He was convicted of sexually assaulting women who wrote to him in emails for years after how they loved him, how he was a father figure, that he paid for flights, they introduced him to their mother. This is completely a rewriting of history by these women, when 20 years later they are embarrassed or 10 years later they are embarrassed… You can’t look at their emails and their behavior and say they’re not rewriting history.”
In his former life, McAleer—who grew up the 10th of 11 children to Catholic parents in Northern Ireland—was a working reporter for The Irish News in Belfast during the sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants that had plagued the country for centuries.
“Looking back, it was a very mad experience,” he said, recalling that as members of the Catholic minority, his family made a point of staying away when the Orangemen marched on July 12 to commemorate the 1690 defeat of Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne.
McAleer remembered that his businessman-father, an avocational cattle farmer, worried that newly delivered hay might be set afire by rampaging Protestants. “The first casualty of war is not truth, as people say. The first casualty of war is sanity,” McAleer said.
He and McElhinney, from a family of four kids, met in the mid-1990s at an Irish political conference in Donegal, where she was an attendee, a high school teacher of English literature and religion, and he was a reporter covering the proceedings.
“He had a head of brown curly hair and he looked unkempt,” McElhinney recalled. “But he had these very shiny eyes and he was very passionate about politics and just about everything. And I was smitten. I remember thinking very, very shortly after I met him, well that’s weird. That’s the person I’m going to marry.”
McAleer, for his part, agreed that “I was wonderfully charming at the conference. I was a young, hotshot journalist.” But “my follow-up [with McElhinney] may not have been perfect,” he said. “I was an asshole. The road to true love was rocky.”
The couple, who don’t have children, are coming up on their 20th wedding anniversary in September.
When they met, McAleer and McElhinney counted themselves as “typical European liberals,” she recalled. He joined the Dublin bureau of Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times, and covered Romania and Bulgaria for The Financial Times and The Economist, while she ventured into journalism herself, doing groundbreaking reports—including in filmed documentaries—on the scandalous corruption common to international adoptions.
The ideological tipping point, they said, came during a visit to a poverty-stricken mountainside Romanian village that a Canadian mining company was planning to turn into a gold mine, while building a new village with modern houses and indoor plumbing for the relocated residents. When wealthy environmental activists and Greenpeace officials showed up to stop the project, McAleer and McElhinney were outraged at what they believed was a manifestation of elite liberal arrogance and made a polemical documentary—funded by the mining company, of course—titled Mine Your Own Business.
McAleer has an extensive history of performing attention-getting stunts like his noisy intrusion on Hunter Biden.
In December 2009, for instance, during a campaign to get publicity for Not Evil Just Wrong, his polemical retort to former vice president Al Gore’s Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth (McAleer is a brazen global warming-denier), he crashed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where he engaged in hostile on-camera exchanges with delegates, tried to interrogate attendee Gore in a 60 Minutes-style ambush, and donned a polar bear costume in an apparent effort to shame a British climatologist who had been accused of fudging data to support anthropogenic climate change theory.
He was sporting the costume—carrying, not wearing, the bear’s head—during one of his frequent Fox News appearances, when one aggrieved conference-goer pelted him in the face on live television with a half-eaten veggie sandwich.
Three months later in Madison, Wisconsin, McAleer gained entry into a Society of Environmental Journalists conference at which Gore was a featured speaker. During the Q&A session, McAleer managed to get a turn at the microphone and briefly debate a smiling Gore about alleged factual errors in An Inconvenient Truth and whether polar bears should be considered an endangered species—that is, before several male conference staffers wrestled the protesting Irishman away and, when he broke free of them and returned to the mic, shut it off.
In 2013 and 2014, while promoting his film FrackNation, a lengthy valentine to the alleged benefits and negligible hazards of hydraulic fracturing, McAleer kept showing up—uninvited, unwelcome and frequently barred—at screenings and events for filmmaker Josh Fox’s Gasland and Gasland II, documentaries that exposed the dangers of poisonous ground-water contamination and even earthquakes caused by the oil industry’s controversial technique of using toxic chemicals under high pressure to liberate natural gas from shale rock. Indeed, FrackNation features a scene of McAleer and Segieda attempting to cross-examine Fox and then scuffling with event organizers over Segieda’s confiscated cell phone at a screening in Los Angeles.
Reached by The Daily Beast, Fox—apparently not wishing to spark yet another unpleasant encounter—declined to comment. Al Gore, too, didn’t offer a comment.
But last week, the former vice president might have been thinking about McAleer and McElhinney when he told Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart that America is in the midst of “an epistemological crisis.”
“It means the way we decide together what is true and what is not,” Gore said. Unlike in the pre-internet past, when newspapers and even broadcast television dominated the transmission of information, “we see institutions like Facebook asphyxiating newspapers and giving oxygen to these deniers of the truth who are often serving some commercial agenda or some wacky nonsense ideology,” Gore argued. “And it has really caused some tremendous problems.”