After nearly a year of attacks from President Donald Trump, and months of near-silence as his father fought for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hunter Biden made an appearance in the final minutes of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night. It was his first on the—albeit digital—campaign trail since his work abroad helped spark an impeachment inquiry into the president.
In a prerecorded video introducing former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden appeared alongside sister Ashley Biden to describe the Democratic nominee as both a father and a leader.
“He’ll be there when you need him,” Hunter Biden said. “He’ll get up no matter how many times he’s been knocked down.”
The video amounted to the most public appearance by the president’s only living son in months. The sole remaining member of the former vice president’s first family, Hunter has been a figure of on-again, off-again fixation in the conservative imagination. Trump was impeached in December 2019 after a House investigation found that he had solicited the Ukrainian government to investigate the younger Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, and the president has attacked him for his former role on the board of a Chinese-backed private equity company.
“Where’s Hunter?!” Trump said at a January campaign rally. “Here’s a guy, made no money, got thrown out of the military forces, I think the Navy, got thrown out, had no job, had no nothing.”
“So he went from that to making millions of dollars a year as soon as Sleepy Joe became vice president, right? He made millions of dollars a year,” Trump continued. “Would anybody in this room do that for millions? I would. We all would.”
While most of the president’s accusations against Hunter Biden have been largely discredited—a top Ukrainian prosecutor said last year that “Hunter Biden cannot be responsible for violations of the management of Burisma that took place two years before his arrival”—the Republican Party has demonstrated a renewed willingness to go along with the line of attack, dropping a two-minute digital ad on Thursday morning accusing Biden of being beholden to China. Hunter Biden, who has insisted that he never discussed his role at the Chinese-backed private equity firm with his father, makes repeated appearances in the advertisement.
Other Republicans have targeted the former vice president’s son in more personal terms. Last month, the Republican National Committee’s director of rapid response tweeted a photograph of Hunter Biden as a school-aged boy, calling him Joe Biden’s “crack smoking son who was administratively discharged from the Navy for testing positive for cocaine and who has abused his dad’s elected position to get rich off the Chinese Community Party.”
Hunter Biden has spoken publicly about his struggles with substance abuse, both before and after the death of his older brother, Beau.
“There’s addiction in every family,” the younger Biden told The New Yorker in July 2019. “I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel—it’s a never-ending tunnel. You don’t get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it.”
The former vice president has shown a hairpin trigger when it comes to his family, particularly Hunter. In December 2019, Joe Biden lashed out at an Iowa voter who heckled him at an event about his son’s dealings in Ukraine.
“You’re a damn liar, man—that’s not true,” Biden said, before responding to the man’s concerns about his age by challenging him to a push-up contest.