(foxnews) – A surge of recent reporting on Hunter Biden by outlets that once widely dismissed and downplayed reports about him in 2020 marks the latest chapter in the debate over mainstream media credibility.
“Federal investigation of Hunter Biden heats up,” reads a CNN headline from March 30. “Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Broad Federal Investigation Continues,” the New York Times wrote on March 16. “Inside Hunter Biden’s multimillion-dollar deals with a Chinese energy company,” the Washington Post reported on March 30.
All three stories invoke Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop, first reported on with less than a month to go in the 2020 election by the New York Post. It was widely dismissed as unreliable and even Russian disinformation by mainstream print and television outlets, especially MSNBC and CNN, and in an astonishing display of coordination, Twitter and Facebook blocked or limited sharing of the New York Post’s article about Biden; Twitter even locked the New York Post out of its account for weeks.
A year-and-a-half later, the laptop’s contents are part of reporting on what the Washington Post called “the ways in which his family profited from relationships built over Joe Biden’s decades in public service” and how what the New York Times says “his professional life has intersected with his father’s public service.”
It’s a long way from 2020, when a Washington Post columnist called the Biden laptop story “laughably weak” and the paper’s reporters noted “intelligence experts” feared it was part of a “carefully planned information operation. MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson said it was “so obviously a Russian operation,” and CNN’s Brian Stelter hypothesized the emails could be “made up” and the story was simply the “right-wing media machine” in action. “60 Minutes” host Lesley Stahl told then-President Trump in 2020 that the laptop couldn’t be “verified,” and NPR announced it wouldn’t “waste our time” on “stories that are not really stories.”
“News outlets, acting as surrogates for the public, owe it to the citizenry to fully investigate this story, not just for what it tells us about Hunter Biden, but for what it says about broader possible influence peddling,” DePauw University professor Jeffrey McCall told Fox News Digital.
Among those unimpressed with the new reporting is the New York Post itself, whose editorial board wrote “reality forced their hand” on the recent stories from the influential newspapers. The board took particular umbrage with the Washington Post’s declaration of no evidence that President Biden had benefited from millions of dollars in payments from a Chinese energy firm to his son.
“The WaPo and Times are still doing their best to suppress much of the story, even as they admit (begrudgingly, indirectly and with nary a hint of an apology to the folks who broke it all 18 months ago) that the laptop was real all along,” the board wrote. “The most charitable explanation we can imagine is that they fear for the nation if Kamala Harris becomes president, because the Times is still finding plenty of news mysteriously unfit for print while DC’s Post keeps many of the facts in darkness.”
The laptop saga began in October 2020, when the New York Post reported about a 2015 email from a Ukrainian energy executive to Hunter Biden, thanking him for introducing him to his father, that it obtained from the hard drive of Biden’s laptop. Joe Biden was vice-president at the time of the message, and his son then enjoyed a lucrative position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm, raising concerns of attempted influence-peddling with his powerful father.
The laptop, which was allegedly dropped off at a repair shop in 2019 by its owner and never recovered, eventually wound up in FBI custody; Biden is now under federal investigation over his tax affairs and overseas business dealings. The hard drive also contained salacious photos and videos of Biden.
In part due to the New York Post obtaining the laptop’s hard drive from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, major news outlets were deeply skeptical of its reported contents. Politico reported on a letter from dozens of intelligence experts who supported Joe Biden’s candidacy claiming, without evidence, that it was likely a Russian disinformation operation, a claim frequently repeated on CNN and MSNBC.
Now, media critics and conservatives are crying foul yet again that a double standard was in action, while some outlets have claimed their efforts to report on the laptop at the time were rebuffed.
“The obvious gossip about why the Post and the New York Times would suddenly accept and confirm the reality of Hunter’s laptop is because they’ve heard that the Justice Department has confirmed its reality, and they don’t want to look ridiculous if federal charges are lobbed in the probe of Hunter Biden’s finances,” Tim Graham of the conservative Media Research Center wrote. “But maybe, just maybe, these papers ought to grant the New York Post some respect for what they reported as reality in real time.”
In the wake of its own reporting on Biden’s troubled son, the Washington Post’s left-leaning editorial board admitted a “reckoning” was in order for the press, wondering, “Why is confirmation of a story that first surfaced in the fall of 2020 emerging only now?”
“The lesson learned from 2016 was evidently to err on the side of setting aside questionable material in the heat of a political campaign. The lesson learned from 2020 may well be that there’s also a danger of suppressing accurate and relevant stories,” the Washington Post board wrote.
It nevertheless defended the “reluctance” of platforms and publications regarding the Biden material in 2020 after being “unwitting tools of a Russian influence campaign in 2016.”
“The mainstream media has finally decided to dip their toes into the Hunter Biden story, but the approach has still been quite measured, and not as aggressive as perhaps it should be. The establishment media’s credibility took quite a hit when it not only sat on the original Hunter Biden story, but then casually dismissed it as Russian disinformation,” McCall told Fox News Digital. “Even independent voters and left-leaning people have to know that the establishment media were running interference for the Biden campaign in 2020.”