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Why the Right Needs Hunter Biden

They think his story assuages their guilt, but it doesn’t.
December 6, 2022
Why the Right Needs Hunter Biden
(Composite / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

They are all leaping in with both feet—all the usual suspects. Elon Musk gave Matt Taibbi access to internal Twitter documents, promising a big reveal about how the company handled the Trump campaign’s planned October surprise. Though it actually unearthed nothing of interest—then-candidate Biden (he was not in government at the time) requested that Twitter not circulate nude photos of his disturbed son, and the company complied—it unleashed a festival of I-told-you-sos from the right.

This comes on the heels of House Republicans calling a press conference to declare that after running on inflation, the border, and crime, their very top priority will be investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop. Rep. James Comer, who will chair the House Oversight Committee, said, “Hunter Biden’s fair game because I believe Hunter Biden is a national security risk.” That was actually mild compared with Rep. Elise Stefanik’s promise in July that if given the majority, Republicans would get “accountability” from the “Biden crime family.”

The-liberal-media-covered-up-the-truth-about-the-Biden-family storyline has been suspended for some time, apparently just waiting for the Musk/Taibbi tweet thread to unleash it. “We’re learning in real-time how Twitter colluded to silence the truth about Hunter Biden’s laptop just days before the 2020 presidential election,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy tweeted. Defeated senatorial candidate Blake Masters chimed in with a tweet saying, “Any candidate who explained how Big Tech put its thumb on the scale was called an ‘election denier’—but the simple truth is that the Hunter Biden laptop censorship put Biden into the White House, full stop.” Comer took to Fox to declare that Twitter’s action on the laptop story amounted to “election suppression.”

The whole right-wing chorus has sung along. They haven’t been this energized since the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. It’s as if Musk projected the bat signal. Laura Ingraham cheered Musk on for uncovering the “fact” that Twitter “worked overtime” to elect Biden. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel offered that “If Joe Biden were a Republican, this would be getting nonstop coverage by the mainstream media. Their blatant bias would be unbelievable except it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME.” Self-described “psychedelic adventurer” Joe Rogan suggests that this proves that “The deep state is 100% real. The swamp is real. They’re real monsters, and they were really trying to get rid of him (Trump) by lying.” And Breitbart’s Joel Pollak expressed the right’s firm belief that: “The importance of the Hunter Biden laptop is it shows that @JoeBiden was engaged in shady deals with China; that he enriched himself using his son’s corrupt foreign deals; and that Trump was right to suspect Biden’s role in Ukraine (for which Trump was impeached). Hence, silence.”

Even the more decorous Wall Street Journal editorial board got its licks in, chastising the former intelligence officials who flagged the laptop story at the time as possible disinformation. This amounts to “political corruption” they thundered. But the statement, signed by 50 officials including Jim Clapper, Mike Hayden, Leon Panetta, John McLaughlin, and Michael Morell (one former director of national intelligence, two former CIA directors, and two former acting CIA directors) explicitly stated that:

We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement—just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.

The Journal did not see fit to mention that it is owned by the same company as the Post, whose honor it was defending.

The notion that a laptop delivered to the Post by Rudy Giuliani two weeks before the election and rejected by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and others should not have been treated skeptically is the dicier proposition. Further, the hyperventilating about the assault this represents on the First Amendment is risible. Twitter, a private company, was free to ignore Biden’s request. Even if Biden had been president at the time, there would be no violation of the First Amendment. Government officials not infrequently request that journalists refrain from publishing material, often about military secrets. Newspapers sometimes comply and sometimes not. It’s only a violation of the First Amendment if the government coerces the journalists.

Nor did Twitter’s temporary suspension of the Post’s account sway the election, as the hysterical tweets from the likes of Rep. Jim Banks suggest (“Never forget that 79% say truthful coverage of Hunter Biden’s laptop would have changed outcome [sic] of 2020 election”). As Cathy Young notes, 1) the ban lasted only about a day; 2) the ban may have heightened interest in the story rather than suppressing it and in any case the story was available via a Google search; and 3) the whole narrative about Biden’s participation in Ukrainian corruption, the gravamen of the laptop story, is false. It rests on the debunked theory that Biden sought to have a Ukrainian prosecutor fired for investigating Burisma, but the truth is that the prosecutor was not investigating, and that’s one reason Biden pushed for his removal.

So what is this really about? Consider the timing.

For seven years, the right has been explaining, excusing, avoiding, and eventually cheering the most morally depraved figure in American politics. That takes a toll on the psyche. You can tell yourself that the other side is worse. Or you can tell yourself that the critics are unhinged, suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome” whereas you are a man of the world who knows nobody’s perfect. But then Trump will do what he always does—he’ll make a fool of you. You denied that Trump purposely broke the law when he took highly classified documents to Mar-A-Lago and obstructed every effort to retrieve them. And then what does Trump do? He admits taking them! You scoff at the critics who’ve compared Trump with Nazis. And then what does he do? He has dinner with Nazis! (And fails to condemn them even after the fact.) You despised people who claimed Trump was a threat to the Constitution, and then Trump explicitly calls for “terminating” the Constitution in order to put himself back in the Oval Office.

Hunter Biden seems to be corrupt. He traded on his father’s name. He has abused drugs and engaged in other unsavory practices. He’s a mess. But there is nothing relevant to public policy or civic virtue here. President Biden is hardly the first president to have troubled family members. But Joe Biden didn’t hire Hunter at the White House, and if there is any evidence of the president using official influence on Hunter’s behalf, we haven’t seen it. The Department of Justice under President Trump opened an investigation into Hunter Biden. President Biden has left it alone. It’s ongoing.

The right has a deep psychological need for the Hunter Biden story. They desperately want Joe Biden to be corrupt and for the whole family to be, in Stefanik’s words, “a crime family” because they have provided succor and support to someone who has encouraged political violence since his early rallies in 2015, has stoked hatred of minorities through lies, has used his office for personal gain in the most flagrant fashion, has surrounded himself with criminals and con men, has committed human rights violations against would-be immigrants by separating children from their parents, has pardoned war criminals, has cost the lives of tens of thousands of COVID patients by discounting the virus and peddling quack cures, has revived racism in public discourse, and attempted a violent coup d’etat.

They know it. It gnaws at them. That’s why the Hunter Biden story is their heart’s desire. But here’s something else they need to meditate on: Even if everything they’re alleging about Joe Biden were true; even if he did pull strings to help his son and even profited unjustly thereby, it still wouldn’t amount to a fraction of what Trump did. And it still won’t wash out the “damn’d spot.”

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark, a nationally syndicated columnist, and host of The Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast. She can be reached at [email protected].