A year after big tech companies and the media worked to discredit the Hunter Biden laptop story revealed by the New York Post, the implications of this astonishing episode are still being felt in American political and cultural life.
“I don’t think there is such a telling story of where our media is, our culture, as this one,” Steve Krakauer, editor of the Fourth Watch newsletter, told Fox News Digital.
October 14, 2020, less than a month before Election day, the New York Post published a story that Hunter Biden introduced his father to a top Ukrainian energy executive, which the Post said “flies in the face of Joe Biden’s claim that he” never spoke to my son about his trade relations abroad “. email correspondence proving the scoop came from a slice of data from Hunter Biden’s laptop – left in a repair shop and apparently abandoned in 2019 – and also included footage of him appearing to be smoking crack cocaine and himself engaging in a sexual act with an unidentified woman.
As the passionate race between Biden and President Donald Trump comes to a head, the provenance of the story, rather than its subject, has become a hot topic of debate among alarmed media and tech makers. And efforts to remove it and even bury it began immediately.
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“The media and Big Tech took it down so completely you couldn’t even talk about it on social media. It’s election interference like we’ve never seen before, and it’s been done in everything. the information environment, ”The Federalist’s said. Mollie Hemingway, whose new book “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections” takes an in-depth look at the episode.
Facebook’s director of political communications Andy Stone said the site would “reduce its distribution on our platform” and added that “this story may be verified by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners.” Twitter, claiming the story violated its terms of service on pirated material, blocked the New York Post from its account for weeks and prevented users from sharing the story link. A Conservative outcry erupted, and Twitter finally restored the Post’s account later in the month.
Published policy an article citing “dozens of former intelligence officials”, some of whom had backed Joe Biden for president, who declared the Russian disinformation story without evidence. It has been called a “baseless conspiracy theory”, “totally false”, “questionable”, “shady” and a “smear campaign”, and NPR has even gone out of its way to explain why. was not covering the contents of the laptop. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times was called “MAGA Haberman” by angry critics after simply sharing a quote from the Post article; she eventually deleted the tweet.
Biden then defeated Trump in November. It is impossible to know whether the story allowed to be shared normally would have changed the outcome of the election, but it gave a whole new meaning to the term “October surprise”.
“It was obviously an effort to get candidate Biden to cross the finish line. And it worked,” said Joe Concha, Fox News contributor.
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Krakauer said the collective media’s “guilt” over the 2016 election and the feverish coverage of the Hillary Clinton email scandal played a role in the media collapse over the history of the New York Post. Clinton and the liberal media have repeatedly denounced the press – including themselves – since his staggering loss to Trump for what they saw as too much focus on his private mail server at the State Department, this which played into broader voter mistrust issues.
“I really think reporters had that post-2016 flashback moment, where people who had shared stories on Hillary’s emails in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election felt personally guilty for contributing. somehow to Trump’s miraculous victory in 2016, and they were being humiliated by others on Twitter and elsewhere for doing that, “Krakauer said. “I think that [was] an absolute fear that if we pay any attention to this it will be again in 2016 and we will be seen as the people who destroyed democracy. “
CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter said the Hunter Biden story was “fabricated” by infamous right-wing media and said: “As far as we know, these emails were fabricated.” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer voiced “real fears” that Rudy Giuliani was being used in a Russian disinformation operation when he delivered the laptop, and NBC’s Ken Dilanian praised the media for staying in. away from history.
“It was the culmination of years of trouble the media had where they made up fake news about Donald Trump and removed stories that they believed could harm his political opponents, but there is has never been anything so explosive, obvious, or bad as what they did with the Hunter Biden story, ”Hemingway said.
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“Anyone in positions of power dealing with corrupt media should treat them like the propagandists they are,” she added. “Don’t treat them like they’re in good faith. It’s not the first time they’ve done this.”
Even in 2021, the mainstream media cast doubt on the story, with NPR calling it “discredited” and the New York Times calling it “unfounded.” Yet last month Politico reported sources with independent access to Hunter Biden’s emails that confirmed their authenticity, though he said there may still be bogus material on the computer. Hunter Biden himself, in an interview this year, said the laptop turned over to the New York Post “could” be his, though he isn’t saying so for sure.
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Hunter Biden’s business and ethical concerns have not disappeared for the White House, not only for the ongoing federal investigation into his finances, but also for the sale of his expensive works of art. Politico’s Ben Schreckinger recently wrote that he “stayed in the headlines” because he was selling his art, which “immediately raised concerns that people who wanted to curry favor with the president would be paying too much. dear art of his son “.
Schreckinger, who is working on a book on the Biden family, believes that Hunter Biden’s paintings have received the most attention, but previous episodes regarding possible conflicts of interest of the Biden family are still murky.
“Until they are fully released, they threaten to undermine the White House’s efforts to tackle global corruption and restore public confidence in the executive branch,” Schreckinger wrote.
Yet despite all the reporting about his children when Trump showed up and then took office, the Hunter Biden saga in 2020 has been met with contempt.
“This is another example of last name sell-off and apathetic media yawn. Because if it was Donald Trump Jr. or Eric Trump it would be the media apocalypse,” said Concha.
The question of whether to regulate big tech giants like Facebook and Twitter is one of the main issues lawmakers face today, and there is a bipartisan agreement on limiting their power and control. affecting. How to do this remains a point of contention, as well as the broader goals of said regulatory efforts. For some conservatives, the New York Post laptop episode showed censorship fears to be well founded and need to be addressed.
Krakauer said such a move would be damaging to democracy, arguing that any right-wing effort to prevent censorship would inevitably backfire.
Hemingway said action needed to be taken, however.
“Big Tech must have its power against the American people somewhat limited,” Hemingway said. “They rudely interfered in this election to the tune of billions of dollars. They violate the freedom of information we have a right to have, and they need to be taken care of.”
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DePauw University professor Jeffrey McCall told Fox News Digital that the “instinctive fashion” of how Hunter Biden’s story was hushed up reflected a lack of respect for the public.
“It was a terrible decision last year for Big Tech to stifle the flow of information and the decision looks even worse now,” he said. “Such a stifling of the flow of information not only reflected an attempt to influence the outcome of an election, but it also showed contempt for the principles of free speech.”
Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News contributed to this report.