Hunter Biden saga: NBC News joins NYT, WaPo, Politico in verifying laptop dismissed as Russian disinfo in 2020
NBC News is the latest legacy news organization to offer delayed legitimacy to the Hunter Biden scandal after downplaying the revelations from his laptop during the 2020 presidential election.
NBC published a story Thursday headlined, “Analysis of Hunter Biden’s hard drive shows he, his firm took in about $11 million from 2013 to 2018, spent it fast,” citing documents showing the fortune he made while working for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, as well as through his business ties to a Chinese energy company. It also aired a package about the story Wednesday on “NBC Nightly News,” its flagship evening program.
The report also highlighted some of Hunter Biden’s expenditures showing he “spent more than $200,000 per month from October 2017 through February 2018 on luxury hotel rooms, Porsche payments, dental work and cash withdrawals.”
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“NBC News obtained a copy of Biden’s laptop hard drive from a representative of Rudy Giuliani and examined Biden’s business dealings from 2013 to 2018 based on the information available on the hard drive and the scope of the documents released by the Senate,” the report stated.
This new report flies in the face of how NBC News and its sister cable network MSNBC covered the Hunter Biden laptop’s contents when the story was broken by the New York Post in 2020.
The New York Times and The Washington Post both verified Hunter Biden’s laptop after dismissing the New York Post’s bombshell reporting during the 2020 presidential election.
(Getty images | New York Post)
Ahead of the final presidential debate on Oct. 22, 2020, where then-President Trump hammered opponent Joe Biden on his son’s business dealings, NBC News correspondent Hallie Jackson previewed Trump’s attack lines as perhaps part of a “foreign disinformation campaign.”
“The president’s also expected to bring up Hunter Biden and unverified emails of his business dealings, described by many intelligence experts as having hallmarks of a foreign disinformation campaign,” Jackson reported at the time. “The Biden campaign says they’re ready for the attack, hoping to flip the script to argue the president’s more obsessed with Biden’s family than American families.”
Jackson also made an effort to degrade President Trump’s debate guest, former Hunter Biden associate Tony Bobulinski, who claimed the former vice president was directly involved with his son’s business dealings.
“While President Trump is expected to bring a former business associate of Hunter Biden’s, Joe Biden is expected to bring small business owners struggling in this pandemic,” Jackson told NBC’s Lester Holt.
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The coverage on MSNBC, known for its unabashed liberal commentary, was far less restrained in dismissing the Post’s reporting.
Right out of the gate, “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough declared the story “false” and later declared the story was “so obviously” Russian disinformation, asking, “Why are we spreading the lies here?”
Co-host Mika Brzezinski cited multiple reports about intelligence agencies investigating Giuliani’s dealings with “alleged Russian agents,” as well as whether emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop are “linked to a foreign intel operation.”
NBC News reported this week on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop as the president’s son remains under a federal tax investigation.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
“Morning Joe” blasted Trump for calling on then-Attorney General William Barr to launch an investigation into the Bidens, with NBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade insisting there’s “no there there” for the DOJ to investigate. McQuade suggested Trump was using the Bidens to deflect from his own legal troubles. But unbeknownst to the public at the time, DOJ had already launched a years-long investigation into Hunter Biden’s finances.
MSNBC anchor Katy Tur mocked the Post’s story, saying it “dropped like a bomb,” but to “wither under scrutiny, not really dropping like a bomb.” NBC News national security correspondent Ken Dilanian called it a “fishy story” despite acknowledging that various emails and images that came from the laptop looked “legitimate.”
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“We have no idea, and neither does the New York Post, whether any of it was doctored or forged or faked. And that’s why the mainstream news media has declined to really touch the story because it just lacks credibility,” Dilanian told Tur. “We now know that Russian disinformation… is as dangerous to our democracy as anything exposed in these emails.”
MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace interviews Joe Biden during his 2020 campaign.
(MSNBC / Screenshot)
“Deadline: White House” host Nicolle Wallace was more confident in dismissing Hunter Biden’s laptop, telling viewers, “We shouldn’t look at it as anything other than a Russian disinformation operation.”
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle attacked those who were covering the Hunter Biden controversy, referring to it as a “so-called story” with “unverified claims.”
“We are now four days away from the election and the truth is more important than ever,” Ruhle told her viewers. “The truth is that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The truth is that millions of Americans are out of work. The truth is we have to listen to science. And in these final days, instead of debating crowd size or unverified claims or conspiracy theories, we should be talking about policy, values and ideas.”
Neither NBC News nor MSNBC responded to Fox News’ requests for comment.
NBC News is the latest to join a growing trend of the media finally acknowledging that Hunter Biden’s emails first published by the New York Post were legitimate.
Politico was the first mainstream outlet to offer credence to emails found on the infamous laptop, citing reporting from correspondent Ben Schreckinger’s book about the Biden family.
“A person who had independent access to Hunter Biden’s emails confirmed he did receive a 2015 email from a Ukrainian businessman thanking him for the chance to meet Joe Biden. The same goes for a 2017 email in which a proposed equity breakdown of a venture with Chinese energy executives includes the line, ‘10 held by H for the big guy?’” Politico Playbook repeated from the book’s reporting in September. “Emails released by a Swedish government agency also match emails in the leaked cache, and two people who corresponded with Hunter Biden confirmed emails from the cache were genuine.”
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Notably, Politico was the same news organization that elevated the “Russian disinformation” narrative, being the first to report on the open letter co-authored by over 50 former intelligence officials who insisted the published emails had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
(Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
The letter, which was parroted by much of the media, baselessly suggested the emails were hacked and could have been tampered with by the Kremlin in order to make their contents look incriminating. Signatories of that letter included outspoken Trump critics John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Jeremy Bash, many of whom have worked as analysts on MSNBC and CNN and supported Joe Biden’s candidacy.
Fast-forward to March when The New York Times published a lengthy report about the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of Hunter Biden, who himself publicly acknowledged in December 2020 that the feds were looking into his “tax affairs.”
The Times reported that while Hunter Biden has “paid off a significant tax liability,” a federal grand jury has subpoenaed witnesses and documents regarding his foreign business dealings.
Buried in the Times’ lengthy article was a paragraph addressing a “cache” of emails the paper reviewed as part of its report, which came from the laptop abandoned in the Delaware repair show and were “authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.”
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During the 2020 election, however, the Times was overly skeptical of the Post’s reporting, which noted credulously that “the nation’s leading social media companies deemed so dubious that they limited access to the article on their platforms.”
The Times also ran a report sounding the alarm about “Russian disinformation,” claiming Trump was warned that Russians were “using” his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was given the laptop before providing its contents to the press, to spread false claims about the Bidens.
“The intelligence agencies warned the White House late last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential run, according to four current and former American officials,” the Times reported at the time.
The New York Times building in Manhattan.
Just days after the New York Times ran its report that verified the laptop, the Washington Post ran its own bombshell about Hunter Biden’s “multimillion-dollar” financial ties to the Chinese energy company CEFC China Energy.
“Over the course of 14 months, the Chinese energy conglomerate and its executives paid $4.8 million to entities controlled by Hunter Biden and his uncle, according to government records, court documents and newly disd bank statements, as well as emails contained on a copy of a laptop hard drive that purportedly once belonged to Hunter Biden,” the Post reported, before writing that it found no evidence that President Biden “personally benefited from or knew details about the transactions with CEFC” which all took place after he left office as vice president.
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The Washington Post then addressed Hunter Biden’s laptop, which was one of several sources on which the report was based. Like NBC News, the Post noted it asked Giuliani for a copy of the data in 2020 and its requests were “rebuffed or ignored.”
“The Post review draws in part on an analysis of a copy said to be of the hard drive of a laptop computer that Hunter Biden purportedly dropped off at a Delaware repair shop and never came to collect. The laptop was turned over to the FBI in December 2019, according to documents reviewed by The Post, and a copy of the drive was obtained by Rudy Giuliani and other advisers to then-President Donald Trump a few months before the 2020 election,” the Post reported.
The Washington Post (Eric Baradat/AFP)
The Post first addressed the Biden controversy on Oct. 14, 2020, the day the New York Post broke its story, using a variation of the “Republicans pounce” trope to frame the story, running the headline, “Three weeks before Election Day, Trump allies go after Hunter — and Joe — Biden.”
“President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and his former top adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who have attracted the scrutiny of U.S. authorities for their political dealings in recent months, helped make public private materials purported to belong to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son in an attempt to swing support to the struggling incumbent,” the Post wrote.
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The report attempted to tie the New York Post’s reporting to Russia by highlighting Giuliani’s past interactions with Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who the U.S Treasury had sanctioned for being an “active Russian agent interfering in the 2020 campaign, which Derkach has denied.”
It went on to claim the story “did not markedly advance what is already known about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, other than to suggest that at one point he gave Vadym Pozharskyi, a Ukrainian business colleague, ‘an opportunity’ to meet his father. The Biden campaign said the vice president’s schedule indicated no such meeting.”