A pro-Trump writer at the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section published a convoluted column Thursday evening asserting that newly released text messages proved that former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was involved in an alleged pay-for-play scheme with his dad and a Chinese energy company.
But just hours later, Wall Street Journal reporters published their own story that seemed to emphatically dismiss the opinion piece’s conclusions, saying a review of documents by the paper revealed “no role for Joe Biden.”
Both the Journal’s opinion section and straight news operation published their dueling stories based on text messages shared with the paper by Tony Bobulinski, a businessman who was involved in a scuttled venture with Hunter Biden in 2017 involving a Chinese oil company.
In a press conference on Thursday before the second and final presidential debate, Bobulinski claimed that he had text messages on multiple phones showing that Joe Biden was a part of a discussion with his son about a business venture with a Chinese energy company.
In her opinion piece on Thursday, Kim Strassel argued that despite the fact that the messages were sent after Joe Biden had left office, and before he launched his presidential campaign, the texts showed that Hunter Biden “was cashing in on the Biden name” and that “Joe Biden was involved” in the plan.
“The former vice president is running on trust and good judgment. The Hunter tale is at best the story of a wayward son and indulgent father. At worst, it is an example of the entire Biden clan cashing in on its name with a U.S. rival,” she wrote.
Strassel wrote that according to the messages, one of Hunter Biden’s business partners in the venture told Bobulinski, “don’t mention Joe being involved, it’s only when u are face to face.” She also said that some messages that referred to an unnamed business partner were references to the former vice president.
But according to the Wall Street Journal’s own reporting, the text messages did not show the pay-for-play scheme that Strassel outlined.
“Text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or [Joe’s brother] James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture,” Journal reporters Andrew Duehren and James T. Areddy wrote.
The Journal did note that Bobulinski said Hunter Biden appeared to reference his father as a potential business partner in one set of text messages, allegedly referring to him as the “big guy.” Biden’s team has denied that the former vice president ever was involved in business ventures with his son, and has released his tax returns, which the campaign says show no business dealings with foreign companies.
The push to put the spotlight on Hunter Biden’s scuttled business dealing with a Chinese energy firm has been part of a last-ditch attempt by the Trump campaign and its allies to recreate the drama of the Clinton email scandal that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Earlier this week, the New York Post published a story with the alleged contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, which was provided to the tabloid by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. As The New York Times reported, the piece so thoroughly lacked credibility that one Post reporter refused to put his name on the story over such concerns.
Giuliani acknowledged to the Times that the Post lacks certain journalistic standards, explaining that he specifically opted to give the story to the tabloid because they wouldn’t “spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” And later this week, the president’s lawyer admitted that even if his claims about Hunter Biden are not accurate, “the American people are entitled to know it.”
While other outlets have steered clear of the story because of questions about the validity of the text messages and how they were obtained, earlier this month, Trump hinted that the Wall Street Journal was preparing to drop a major story about Hunter Biden, sparking rumors about the contents of the Journal’s story.
Thursday’s dust-up wasn’t the first time in recent months that the paper’s reporting staff has seemed to be at odds with its right-leaning opinion section.
In June, 280 Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones staffers sent a letter to the publisher of the paper saying the opinion section's "lack of fact-checking and transparency, and its apparent disregard for evidence, undermine our readers’ trust and our ability to gain credibility with sources.”