The 1980s TV crime drama Hunter featured an eponymous main character who popularized the catchphrase, “Works for me.” Today’s crime drama surrounding Hunter Biden evokes a different repeated utterance: “Who did Hunter work for?”
The troubled presidential scion is in the news again and raising questions about his father, President Joe Biden. This unwanted attention has also renewed questions about the media’s relative lack of interest in the younger Biden’s highly questionable business interests during the 2020 presidential election.
Last week, Politico reported: “The New York Times is still digging into Hunter Biden’s business relationships.” The Gray Lady sued the State Department to get emails about Hunter Biden that were sent or received by the US Embassy in Romania. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, these new emails reveal.
Although it garnered more attention on the right than in the mainstream media, last September, Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger, author of The Bidens, confirmed the validity of some of the controversial emails that surfaced during the 2020 campaign—including an email with a Chinese oil executive, referencing equity to be held for “the big guy.” (The big guy was Joe Biden, according to the recipient, Tony Bobulinski, a business partner of Hunter’s.)
Schreckinger also confirmed an email involving a Ukrainian business executive thanking Hunter for introducing him to his father at a dinner the previous night. (Joe Biden’s team denies the meeting.)
Meanwhile, conservative media is turning up the heat. Fox Nation is currently streaming a four-part series called Who Is Hunter Biden, and author Peter Schweizer just published a new book called Red-Handed, which alleges that the Biden family “received some $31 million from Chinese individuals who are linked to the highest levels of Chinese intelligence.” According to Schweizer, one of those individuals was investor Che Fung, who is referred to in emails by Hunter Biden as the ‘Superchairman.’” Schweizer also alleges that “Hunter Biden was paying his father’s bills with the foreign money…”
If true, these revelations dramatically advance the story from garden-variety corruption (Hunter Biden trading on his daddy’s name) to something much more nefarious.
But how reliable is Schweizer’s reporting? On one hand, he is the president of a think tank that was co-founded by Steve Bannon, and is, as The Guardian reports, “part of the rightwing ecosystem.” His conveniently timed book Clinton Cash (published in 2015), raised legitimate questions about Bill and Hillary Clinton, but also included omissions and errors.
On the other hand, Schweizer’s 2011 book Throw Them All Out took shots at both sides, and it sparked a 60 Minutes segment on how members of Congress cash in on insider information (which led to the creation of the STOCK Act).
In short, Schweizer’s books often reveal important and overlooked information, but his motives are suspicious. This raises a question: Rather than outsourcing this investigative work to Schweizer (whose goal is to feed his reporting to mainstream outlets), shouldn’t the media just do this work themselves?
Some, like Politico’s Schreckinger and The New York Times’ Ken Vogel, have spent considerable time doing just that. But let’s be honest, if this were any other president’s son, the coverage would have been through the roof.
Even without these post-election revelations and allegations, there was always an appearance of impropriety. We know Hunter was paid a lot of money to serve on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, apparently without ever visiting Ukraine and without any discernible expertise in the energy field. And his father just happened to be the point man there for the Obama administration.
We also now know that Hunter has become an artist, with some of his paintings fetching upwards of $500,000.
There’s a lot of juicy stuff here. So why didn’t this receive the coverage it might have deserved before Joe Biden was elected president? For one thing, Donald Trump—and his family—raised the bar for what qualifies as a newsworthy scandal, particularly when it comes to profiting off of the presidency.
And, to be honest, there were multiple red flags. Way back in May of 2019, it was reported that Rudy Giuliani was planning to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden in Ukraine. We also know that on a July 2019 phone call, Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to work with Giuliani on this project.
There was the not-implausible suggestion that this “October surprise” (the release of Hunter Biden’s emails) might be Russian disinformation (as former intel officials said).
Further fueling skepticism, the email story first dropped in a tabloid, the New York Post, and one of the reporters refused to allow his byline to be included in the story, while another reporter only discovered that her byline was included after the story was published.
Serious mistakes were also made by Trump and his allies. The original plan was to have the Wall Street Journal break the email story. But Trump spooked them by bragging that they were working on “an important piece.” Giuliani also scooped their reporting by leaking documents to the New York Post—and Bobulinski, Hunter Biden’s former partner turned Trump campaign witness, got tired of waiting and made his case to Breitbart.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden continued to defend his son and vehemently deny any wrongdoing. I suspect there was also a natural hesitancy to go after Biden family members, especially considering the tragedies that they have endured.
I’ve just explained why the story didn’t get the attention it probably deserved in 2020, but what about in the future? By suing the State Department, The New York Times has signaled that they are serious about investigating the new Hunter Biden revelations. That’s a good start.
Media outlets and investigative reporters should pursue new allegations and leads aggressively, regardless of where that takes them. They shouldn’t let their fear or dislike of Trump guide their reporting.
The credibility of the media is at stake. And in the unlikely event that (as Schweizer’s reporting would suggest) Joe Biden has been compromised by a foreign government, the stakes are a lot higher than that.