Don’t expect any ‘media culpas’ over ignoring Hunter Biden before the election
It’s not exactly a bulletin that the role of the press in a free country like ours is to cover the news — not to cover up the news. Yet, that’s precisely what many journalists did in the final few weeks before the presidential election.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Almost all major mainstream news organizations flat out refused to pursue a blockbuster story published in the New York Post about Hunter Biden’s business dealings with foreign entities — and whether or not they were aboveboard.
That Hunter was cashing in on his family’s name seems fairly obvious. While that may not be illegal, it does raise questions: Was Hunter telling his Ukrainian and Chinese business associates that he would put in a good word for them with his father, who one day might become president of the United States?
You’d think that would be something curious that journalists might want to pursue — unless, of course, they wanted to put a lid on any news that might hurt then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. Liberals in and out of the media might say that’s crazy, except that it isn’t.
CNN was especially dismissive of the New York Post story.
Brian Stelter, who hosts a media show on CNN, said the story was a “manufactured scandal” and “a classic example of the right-wing media machine” — an obvious shot at Fox News, one of the few TV outlets that gave the story airtime. “They want you to stay mad and stay tuned,” Stelter said.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper said “the right wing was going crazy” over the story.
Other liberal journalists were just as incurious, blowing off the Hunter Biden story as Russian disinformation, a Russian hoax, part of a Donald Trump smear campaign. In essence, they said it was fake news.
Anne Applebaum, who writes for The Atlantic, dismissed the story snarkily: “There’s no ‘there’ there.” NPR’s managing editor for news, Terence Samuels, without a hint of embarrassment, summed up much of the media’s contempt for the story when he tweeted: “Why haven’t you seen any stories from NPR about the NY Post’s Hunter Biden story? … We don’t waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”
And it wasn’t only Big Media that had no interest in whether Hunter Biden was peddling his father’s name in exchange for a big payday; Big Tech also suppressed the news.
Facebook and Twitter — from which tens of millions of Americans get much of their news — censored the New York Post story on the grounds that the information about Hunter Biden might not be true or might have been hacked — something that never bothered them when the information was about how President Trump reportedly paid almost no federal income tax or allegedly was working for the Russians.
So anyone who got his or her news from those social media platforms in the final days of the campaign might not even know who Hunter Biden is.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Joe Biden’s inauguration. Now that his father has been elected president, Hunter Biden tells us that he just learned that the federal government has been investigating him — an investigation that began in 2018 and reportedly includes inquiries involving potential criminal violations of tax and money-laundering laws.
You might think that those award-winning journalists at the New York Times, who published all sorts of leaked information that made Trump look bad, might have been able to find out about the FBI and IRS investigations of Hunter Biden. I’m making no accusations against the Times; I’m just wondering if it had the information and didn’t publish it — or didn’t even try to get it.
So what should we make of all those pious comments from so many journalists who had so little interest in the story — before the election?
Could it be that liberal journalists who made no secret of their disdain for Donald Trump, who thought he was a threat to democracy, were actually covering for Joe Biden in the weeks leading up to Nov. 3? More than a few conservatives think so.
“The news media helped silence a story and alter the results of an election. They are probably laughing in newsrooms all around the country,” Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor told Fox News.
And Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox that liberals in the mainstream media appear to have “snuffed out the Hunter Biden scandal” in order to give a boost to Biden’s election chances. “It would have seriously hurt Joe Biden’s campaign enough to make a difference in key swing states,” Jacobson said. “Rather than regretting this journalistic malfeasance, the perpetrators likely are quite proud of themselves.”
So don’t expect introspection from the journalists who told us “there’s no ‘there’ there” — and no apologies from those who said it was all a “Russian hoax.”
Journalists aren’t big on admitting their mistakes. Media culpas aren’t their thing.
Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.
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