🇺🇸 Hunter Biden: Misinformation or Media Bias?
In recent weeks, President Biden's son has been hitting the headlines once again. What is particularly interesting to note is the different ways in which Hunter is reported upon across different US media outlets.
If anything, he serves as an example of just how partisan and polarising the political and media landscapes in the US can be.
The purpose of this piece is not to draw a conclusion on whether or not there was media bias or misinformation - or both - but to outline the research we did, and allow you to draw your own informed conclusions.
Like with all of our pieces, we hope you find it helpful, interesting and informative.
WHO IS HUNTER BIDEN?
"You know how some people are both fuck-ups and earnest at the same time? That’s how Hunter is. He’s not a bad guy at all." - A former colleague of Hunter Biden, speaking to Vanity Fair in 2019
Hunter Biden, as you know, is Joe Biden's son. His full name is actually Robert Hunter Biden, and he was born in 1970.
The 52-year-old experienced unimaginable tragedy at a very young age.
Back in 1966, Joe Biden and Neilia Hunter got married. They had three children together, two boys and a girl - Beau, Hunter and Naomi.
Beau was named after Joe, with Hunter given his Mother's maiden name.
On December 18 1972, while out Christmas shopping Neilia and Naomi were both killed in a car accident. Beau and Hunter - both in the car - survived, but were badly injured.
Joe Biden was 30 years old when he suddenly became a widower, a parent who lost a child, and a single father to two young boys - aged two and three at the time.
Above is a very famous photo of Joe Biden taking his oath of office as a senator alongside Beau's hospital bed in 1973. Meanwhile, below is video footage of Biden speaking at the time.
"I make this one promise to you all. If in six months or so, there's a conflict between my being a good father and being a good senator which I hope would not occur... we can always get another senator, but they [Beau and Hunter] can't get another father." - Senator Biden in 1973
Less than five years after the deaths of Neilia and Naomi, Joe Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs - today known as First Lady, Dr Jill Biden. She very much became a mother to Beau and Hunter, and the couple also had a daughter together, Ashley, who was born in 1981.
LATER IN LIFE
Hunter studied law at Yale University, and at the age of 21, he and his partner Kathleen welcomed their first daughter. They called her Naomi, after Hunter's late sister.
The couple married in 1993, and had two other daughters - Finnegan and Maisy. They divorced in 2017.
Worth noting: Joe Biden traces his ancestry back to Finnegans in Co Louth, Ireland.
Hunter also had a fourth child in 2018 with a woman called Lunden Alexis Roberts in Arkansas. In 2019, Roberts filed a paternity suit which was settled a year later. Roberts now has custody of their child.
After graduating from Yale, Hunter’s father Joe was running for re-election in the Senate - and he appointed Hunter as his campaign manager.
At the same time, Hunter got a job as a lawyer at MBNA America - a bank holding company that was one of Joe Biden’s largest donors.
The older Biden’s campaign was a success - and Hunter departed MBNA in 2001, instead going to work at the United States Department of Commerce in conjunction with the Clinton administration.
Following a stint there, Hunter became a political lobbyist - co-founding the firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair.
“Biden wouldn't ask Hunter about his lobbying clients, and Hunter wouldn't tell his father about them.” - The New Yorker, 2019
However, Hunter did resign from his post at the lobbying firm after his father was asked by Barack Obama to run as his vice president.
Hunter enlisted in the US Navy Reserves in 2012 - but his stint with the military was brief.
It is public knowledge that he has struggled with problems with addiction throughout his life, and he was discharged from the military for cocaine use, having already received a waiver for a previous drug-related issue.
In response to this, Hunter said;
“It was the honour of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge… I respect the Navy's decision. With the love and support of my family, I'm moving forward." - Hunter Biden
Back to 2014, and Hunter signed on to become a board member at Burisma Holdings - "one of the largest private natural gas providers in Ukraine".
The announcement was met with some criticism - including warnings of a conflict of interest. Some reports suggested Hunter was paid as much as $50,000 a month for the position.
In his book 'Beautiful Things', Hunter admitted the pay was significant, and also said "there's no question my last name was a coveted credential," but insisted he was "absolutely qualified" for the role.
"To be honest, the pay was good. There's no question that the board fee, five figures a month, appealed to me. It wasn't out of line with compensation given to board members at some Fortune 500 companies, but I wasn't used to such a handsome sum for that kind of work." - Hunter Biden, in his book 'Beautiful Things'
At the time, Joe Biden was the vice president, and in that role he was involved in US policy towards the region. This was also during a period where many in Ukraine were looking west, and trying to reduce the country's dependency on Russian energy imports.
However, these concerns were dismissed by the vice president’s office - which pointed out that Hunter was a private citizen. These business dealings - and the reporting on them - would go on to become a major source of controversy.
THE BOND WITH BEAU
"Beau's my soul. Hunter's my heart." - Joe Biden in 2019
Beau Biden, like his father, received a law degree from Syracuse University. He also went on to pursue a career in service. Unlike his younger brother Hunter, Beau lived a largely scandal-free life.
He was in the US military and fought in the Iraq war.
A Democrat like his father, Beau went on to become the Attorney General in Delaware - a position he was elected to in 2006 and stayed in until 2014, despite periods of battling cancer.
During his terms in office, Beau aggressively went after sexual predators, launching a Child Predator Task Force. When his father became vice president in 2008, many expected Beau to run for his vacated Senate seat.
However, he remained in his position as Attorney General - in part as he prioritised a high-profile case against Earl Bradley, a prolific child molestor.
“I have a duty to fulfil as attorney general, and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence... and that is what I must do.” - Beau Biden, in 2010
Beau was prominent in both of his father’s campaign trails for vice president - appearing alongside him frequently. He was preparing a run for state governor - before falling seriously ill with a brain tumour.
In 2015, after a long battle with brain cancer, Beau Biden died. He was 46 years old, and left behind his wife Hallie and two children - Robert and Natalie.
Beau was the second of Joe Biden’s children to precede him in death, and was eulogised by President Obama.
“Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.” - Joe Biden, speaking after Beau’s death
That same year, Hunter - who had struggled with addiction in the past - relapsed following the collapse of his 22-year marriage to Kathleen Buhle.
He disclosed that he was binge drinking vodka every day, and taking crack cocaine until his father intervened.
“I spent more time on my hands an knees picking through rugs, smoking anything that even remotely resembled crack cocaine, I probably smoked more parmesan cheese than anyone” - Hunter Biden, speaking in 2021
HUNTER AND HALLIE
Two years after the death of Beau, the Biden family confirmed reports that Hunter had begun a relationship with Hallie - his brother's widow.
"We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness... they have mine and Jill’s full and complete support and we are happy for them.” - Biden family statement
The news made international headlines and sparked a lot of debate.
By 2019 - as Joe Biden announced he would be running for president for the third time - news that the relationship had ended was circulated.
Speaking about it after the relationship had ended, Hunter acknowledged it was "really hard" for both his and Beau's kids, but said the relationship came about it in quite an understandable way.
“To me it's not something that’s difficult to explain, because it came out of a real overwhelming grief that we both shared, and we were together and trying to do the right thing and that grief turned into a hope for a love that maybe could replace what we lost, and it didn’t work.” - Hunter Biden
In February 2021, the Mail Online ran an exclusive story alleging that during his relationship with Hallie, Hunter was also sending sexually explicit messages to her sister.
Few other media outlets reported this, and in our research we did not come across a comment from the Biden family on these reports.
THE NEW YORK POST
On October 14, 2020 - less than three weeks before the US election where Biden was running against incumbent Donald Trump - the New York Post published an article called ‘BIDEN SECRET EMAILS’.
The paper reported it had obtained “smoking-gun”emails that proved shady business dealings between the Bidens and Ukraine - including proof that Hunter had introduced his father to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm.
The New York Post alleged this meeting took place less than a year before Joe Biden “pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company”.
But, how did this come about - were the emails genuine, and what was the reaction to them?
The New York Post stated that the emails they had obtained came from a computer that was “dropped off at a repair shop in Biden’s home state of Delaware in April 2019”.
A man called John Paul Mac Isaac - the owner of a computer repair shop - said he was given a MacBook Pro in April 2019 by Hunter Biden.
Hunter had allegedly requested the data be recovered from the computer due to liquid damage.
Isaac said he did just this - but claims Biden never returned to collect the MacBook, despite repeated calls. As such, he came to regard it as abandoned property.
It is important to note that Hunter has since denied knowledge of handing in a laptop to the repair shop.
“For real, I don't know… I really don’t know… I don’t have any idea… there could be a laptop out there that was stolen from me, it could be that I was hacked, it could be that it was Russian intelligence… not that I remember at all, so we’ll see.” - Hunter Biden speaking to CBS in April 2021
In July 2019, news of Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine was making headlines - so Isaac contacted the FBI, who issued a subpoena and collected the laptop.
Before handing the laptop over, Isaac made copies of the data - he says this was “in case he was ever thrown under the bus as a result of what he knew”.
In August 2020 as the election was heating up, Isaac sent copies of the data to former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani - who worked closely with Donald Trump. Giuliani gave the data to The New York Post - who broke the story.
FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
One reason the story caused so much controversy was the way Twitter and Facebook in particular responded. They suppressed The New York Post story - and restricted distribution of other stories about the contents of the drive.
Twitter said it was concerned the story contained “hacked materials" - and Facebook said it was part of a "standard process" so that fact-checkers could review the content and decide if it was misinformation.
Twitter's founder Jack Dorsey expressed concern about how it was handled.
A number of high-profile Republicans argued it was evidence of anti-conservative social media bias - and insisted the companies were trying to protect Joe Biden.
Ted Cruz, the Republican senator for Texas, was quick to say the way in which the story was reported highlighted bias - both in the media and Silicon Valley.
Below is an example, where NPR said they "don't want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories". Speaking to how polarising that time was, the tweet was published on October 22 2020, less than two weeks before the election.
“Never before have we seen the censorship of a major outlet's reporting… Big Tech crossed a line and must be held accountable.” - Senator Ted Cruz
Following the media reports, politicians from the Republican Party generally portrayed the emails as evidence of misbehaviour by Hunter that implicated Joe Biden.
The Democrats, meanwhile, generally framed the story as disinformation - potentially connected to Russian operatives - working to undermine Joe Biden.
The laptop is currently in possession of the FBI. But what began as an investigation into whether Hunter had paid all the taxes he should have on foreign income has expanded.
According to multiple media reports, the Justice Department have now examined "whether Hunter Biden and some of his associates violated money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying laws, as well as firearm and other regulations".
Regarding the tax investigation which began in 2018, Hunter insisted he was "co-operating completely," and was "absolutely certain... I will be cleared of any wrongdoing".
The Republicans probed Hunter Biden and his connections with Burisma in 2020, and released a report that found no evidence of wrongdoing by former vice president, Joe Biden.
The report did, however, find that Hunter “cashed in” on his father’s name and that his work with Burisma had given the appearance of a conflict of interest.
It is interesting to note that at the time, the New York Times framed the report as one that put forth “unproven allegations” which “echoed a Russian disinformation campaign”.
However, 24 paragraphs down in a New York Times piece from mid-March of this year, it appears the outlet now considers at least some of those emails to be authentic.
After the initial media reports, The Washington Post obtained copies of the data from Hunter's laptop and enlisted two technical experts to review it.
They were able to verify a small fraction of the data - in total 217GB in size - as belonging to Hunter Biden. This included most of the 129,000 emails.
The verified emails gave insight into some of the alleged business dealings - including that Hunter was paid nearly $5 million for work with a Chinese energy company, CEFC China Energy.
They also shone light on Biden’s work with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company for which he was previously a board member.
However, the experts said they could not rule out the emails being manipulated by hackers - so the findings did little to resolve remaining questions.
In a recent interview, Donald Trump said President Putin should release information on an unproven claim that Hunter Biden received a $3.5 million payment from the former wife of an ex-mayor of Moscow.
As Putin's war in Ukraine continued, the White House issued a scathing response to Trump's comments.
"What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin?"
It remains to be seen what the implications of this story will be for Hunter Biden. But coverage of the story has changed - away from a story of misinformation towards one that seems far more genuine.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate are using the case as a means to ask questions of social media companies and Big Tech.
In terms of Hunter's personal life, in May 2019 he married Melissa Cohen days after meeting. The pair are reportedly still together and share a young son, who they called Beau Biden.
Should there be any further updates on this story in general we will keep you updated.