The biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is...

The biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is...
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The top example of media malfeasance in 2020 is not about how a story was covered but about how it wasn't. And it's downright chilling. 

In November – and only after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election – it was revealed by the Biden camp that Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had been under grand jury investigation for "tax affairs" by the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware. For the nation's oldest newspaper and its fourth largest, the New York Post, this was total vindication for the way it was demeaned by traditional and social media for reporting on the story when it mattered: Before the Nov. 3 election in October. 

To review, the Post appeared to have the goods: Emails from a laptop provided by Trump attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiMichael Cohen on Giuliani's legal fees: He won't get 'two cents' from Trump Lawyer for accused Capitol rioter says client had 'Foxitis,' 'Foxmania' Giuliani lays off staffers: report MORE allegedly belonging to Hunter showing, among other things, a meeting he had arranged between his father and a top executive at a Ukrainian energy company, where Hunter was making a cool $50,000 a month to sit on its board despite never having worked at any energy company. The emails were given to Giuliani off a copy of a hard drive by the owner of a computer repair shop in Delaware, who said the laptop was dropped off and never picked up months earlier. 


"Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email from Vadym Pozharskyi reads in 2014 at a time when Joe Biden was vice president. 

Hold the phone: Joe Biden swore he had "never spoken" to his son "about his overseas business dealings." Here's an email suggesting he did.

One year later, the VP pressured Ukrainian government officials to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the company at the time. 

So, is that a story worth pursuing? Rhetorical question. 

Except much of the U.S. media decided this wasn't worthy of coverage, and anyone who did pursue it was a right-wing conspiracy nut looking to land a Hail Mary in an attempt to damage Biden going into the election. 

The headlines at the time were telling, with the fallback of "Russian Disinformation" being the common thread. 


New York Times: "Trump Said to Be Warned That Giuliani Was Conveying Russian Disinformation"

CNN: “The anatomy of the New York Post's dubious Hunter Biden story

Washington Post: “The truth behind the Hunter Biden non-scandal”  

Politico also first reported that more than 50 former senior intelligence officials had signed on to a letter all stating they believed the laptop allegedly being the property of Hunter Biden had "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” 

Signatories included anti-Trump former intelligence officials John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal Online and frighteningly real: 'A Taste of Armageddon' MORE (former CIA director, current MSNBC analyst), James ClapperJames Robert ClapperDomestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack MORE (former director of national intelligence, current CNN analyst) and Jeremy Bash (former CIA chief of staff, current MSNBC analyst).

But the gold medal for hubris goes to taxpayer-funded NPR, which issued this statement explaining why it wasn't even attempting to verify the story. 

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” NPR managing editor Terence Samuel said in an October interview. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was . . . a politically driven event and we decided to treat it that way.”  

For his part, President TrumpDonald TrumpSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote One quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors MORE urged "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl to broach the story during an Oct. 23 interview with him. 

“This is the most important issue in the country right now?” Stahl asked Trump when he brought up the topic.

“It’s a very important issue to find out whether a man’s corrupt who’s running for president, who’s accepted money from China, and Ukraine, and from Russia,” Trump replied. “Take a look at what’s going on, Lesley, and you say that shouldn’t be discussed? I think it’s one of the biggest scandals I’ve ever seen, and you don’t cover it.”

“Well, because it can’t be verified,” Stahl shot back. “I’m telling you —”

“Of course it can be verified,” Trump retorted. “Excuse me, Lesley, they found a laptop —” 

“It can’t be verified,” Stahl repeated.

Pro-tip: It's difficult to verify anything when not bothering to verify it in the first place, right?  

No matter: The New York Post was thrown in social media jail for having the audacity to report something potentially damaging on the Democratic nominee. The paper's Twitter account was locked for two weeks as a result, something downright Orwellian for any company to do in a country that's supposed to respect the rights of a free and fair press. 

But it got worse: Anyone sharing the Post's Hunter Biden story was also locked out of their accounts, including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the Trump campaign itself.

"They essentially have me at gunpoint and said unless you delete this story, a news story by the New York Post, I cannot regain access to my account," McEnany told Fox News on Oct. 15.

"This was a news story with emails, pictures of the emails," McEnany said before later adding, "Even the Biden campaign does not dispute the authenticity of the emails."

And the Biden camp still doesn't dispute their authenticity.  

For his part, President-elect BidenJoe BidenSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote Shining a light on COINTELPRO's dangerous legacy MORE stunningly is still claiming Russian disinformation is behind the smear campaign against his son. No follow-up questions are permitted by his communications staff on the rare occasion a yelled question by Fox's Peter Doocy is answered. 

"Mr. President-elect, do you still think that the stories from the fall about your son Hunter were Russian disinformation and smear campaign, like you said?" Doocy asked.

"Yes, yes, yes. God love you, man. You’re a one-horse pony,” Biden responded. “I tell you. Thank you. Thank you."

For a media that allowed Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFree Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech Trump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama MORE (D-Calif.) and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGOP struggles to rein in nativism Personal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot Trump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting MORE (D-Calif.) to claim without any real pushback that Trump colluded with Russia as an agent of Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinQueen's cousin and associate accused of 'secretly trading on their links' to Putin, monarchy for profit Putin warns of resurgence in Nazi beliefs on anniversary of WWII's end Biden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon MORE, that allowed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE to repeatedly declare President Trump was illegitimate because of the Russians, the collective dismissal and suppression of a story with actual teeth of a future president being potentially compromised is hypocrisy for the country to see in broad daylight. 

The cotton candy questions for Biden can only last so long after Trump is gone. It will be interesting to see in 2021 if the coddling of the 46th president will continue. Or if those claiming to exist in this business to hold the powerful accountable actually do so.  

If 2020 is any indication, don't hold your breath on that one. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.