Major media outlets and platforms that dismissed, ignored or sought to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop bombshell are taking a beating in the wake of this week’s disclosures, accused of covering up an important story in the weeks before a critical election.
The Biden campaign confirmed Wednesday that the Justice Department is investigating presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s son’s “tax affairs,” a probe that reportedly began in 2018, with multiple reports adding that Hunter Biden’s Chinese business dealings are also under scrutiny.
Trump campaign press secretary Hogan Gidley said Friday that “99% of what we’re talking about today, we knew about months ago.”
“We had a conference call every day for about 12 days in a row with hundreds and hundreds of members of the mainstream media on the call,” Mr. Gidley said on Fox News. “We outlined verified information that the Biden family was under criminal investigation by the FBI … and the media refused to cover it.”
The disclosures triggered a round of “I told you so” commentaries from the conservative media outlets that did cover the story two months ago, starting with the New York Post, which broke in mid-October the foreign influence-peddling allegations based on emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
The tabloid’s front page Friday screamed, “The Hunter Coverup: How media ignored Biden’s son’s troubles until AFTER election.”
Hunter Biden’s business dealings have since become fair game for some of the same news outlets that once greeted the story with a yawn.
CNN has run several stories this week. The Washington Post featured a report Thursday on its front page, while Politico broke a story saying that federal authorities are also investigating Joe Biden’s brother James Biden for his role in a now-bankrupt hospital company.
The New York Post in a Wednesday staff editorial blamed the previous lack of interest on “media collusion.”
“Other media outlets didn’t just ignore the story; they tried to suppress it,” said the editorial, adding, “Their excuse? Pure speculation — now proven utterly baseless — that the story was the work of Russian propagandists.
National Review ran a Friday editorial headlined, “The Disgraceful Hunter Biden Cover-up.” Conservative columnist David Harsanyi wrote that, “It’s now clear that the Hunter Biden story was real. … Really, it was always clear.”
“Yet when the New York Post broke the details, virtually the entire journalistic establishment and left-wing punditsphere defamed the newspaper, claiming it was passing on Russian “disinformation” or partisan fabrications,” Mr. Harsanyi said in an op-ed.
The media’s initial “nothing to see here” approach also came under fire on Fox News, which ran a lengthy Oct. 27 interview with Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of both Hunter Biden and his uncle Jim Biden on a deal involving a Chinese energy conglomerate tied to the communist government.
“The simple fact is that much of the media blew off or played down that New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop, blatantly censored by Twitter during the fall campaign, and criticized outlets like Fox News for following up on it,” said Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz on Friday.
The reckoning included criticism of National Public Radio, which refused outright to cover the story. Managing editor Terence Samuel said at the time that, “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories.”
Other major outlets that did follow up often framed them as media stories, such as The New York Times report on conflict in the New York Post newsroom, or linked them to Russia disinformation, as in the Daily Beast story headlined, “Russian State Media Is Desperately Trying to Keep the Hunter Biden Story Alive.”
CNN ran an Oct. 18 news article headlined, “The anatomy of the New York Post’s dubious Hunter Biden story.” Politico reported Oct. 19 that more than 50 former intelligence officials signed a letter saying the scoop had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.”
Some outlets did address the coverage issue. NBC News ran an explainer Oct. 30 saying that its efforts to confirm the story ran aground, while Mother Jones said that there was “every reason imaginable to be suspicious of the Hunter Biden story.”
“The mainstream media did try to report the Hunter Biden story, but they ran into blockade after blockade. In the end, there was nothing there,” said Mother Jones in an Oct. 31 report.
Twitter locks down accounts
More troubling was the active suppression on powerful social media platforms. Facebook at first prevented the story from being posted, while Twitter took it a step further by initially blocking users from retweeting the story — even White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s account was shuttered for a time — and locking the New York Post’s account for two weeks.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a Senate committee that they worried about distributing material from foreign hacks.
In a late October interview with President Trump on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” anchor Lesley Stahl sparred with the president about the story, defending her decision to ignore the report by saying “it can’t be verified.”
That line drew snorts from conservative commentators. “Well, it’s difficult to verify anything when you don’t bother to check under the hood in the first place, right?” asked the Hill’s Joe Concha.
“Because that’s exactly what happened here, except that the cake was baked with a condemnation of the few who decided to pursue the story,” Mr. Concha said in a Friday op-ed accusing the media of “dereliction of duty.”
Whether media outlets remain interested in the Hunter Biden story is another question. The conservative Media Research Center said that ABC, NBC and CBS largely dropped the story on Thursday after covering it Wednesday.
“On Thursday night, ABC and CBS waved goodbye to Hunter Biden’s life of corruption, omitting any and all mentions of reports (either from months past or this week) that Hunter’s business dealings in China are said to be part of legal investigations,” said MRC Newsbusters managing editor Curtis Houck, adding that “NBC Nightly News” spent 35 seconds on the story.
Refusing to drop the matter is the New York Post, which called in its editorial for “a host of explanations, and apologies, to the American people from all the outlets that found this news unfit to print.”
“As one paper’s motto puts it, ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’” said the editorial.
The quote was a reference to The Washington Post, which adopted the slogan shortly after Mr. Trump was elected. On Oct. 16, foreign-affairs columnist David Ignatius ran an op-ed headlined, “The truth behind the Hunter Biden non-scandal.”