A few weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post published an incendiary story recounting the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. The article pointed out material that implied some conflicts of interests between then-Vice President Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma of which Hunter was an employee. The article, which has been confirmed to be based in fact, was subjected to unprecedented censorship by both Big Tech giants and the mainstream media.
Just a few hours after the article was published, the dominating narrative implied that the article was part of an elaborated Russian disinformation campaign that was aimed at destroying the Democrat’s chances of taking the White House from Trump.
Politico ran a story titled “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” Similarly, The Washington Post published an article where it argued that “We must treat the Hunter Biden leaks as if they were a foreign intelligence operation — even if they probably aren’t.” Most notable was the treatment that tax-funded NPR decided to give to the story, deciding to ignore it entirely from its coverage, saying the outlet “did not 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 distraction.”
Not only did the media argue the story should be either treated as an insidious operation from foreign governments or as a fake, made-up story but social media decided to actively suppress the spread of the article. In an unprecedented move, Twitter and Facebook unilaterally decided to limit the sharing of the article on their platforms, with the former prohibiting users from even posting links to the article and the latter limiting its spread through their news feed feature.
Hunter Biden’s Laptop was real after all
Despite receiving a strong rebuke from many mainstream media outlets and the many times quoted “intelligence experts” who argued the story was a clear attempt by Russian hackers to manipulate the 2020 election, the story was never really disproven. In fact, the Biden campaign never openly denied the story in the press. Instead, they only quoted the letter from the intelligence experts who argued, without evidence, that the story was part of a Russian campaign.
Although the campaign continued and the election ended, with Biden winning the White House in a bitterly fought and close election, the Hunter Biden laptop story continued to linger in the background. Eventually, the media outlets who were fast to frame the story as a disinformation operation (per the evaluation of experts) and those who decided to ignore the story altogether began to quietly retract their initial positions. Politico’s national political correspondent Ben Schreckinger authored a book where he confirmed that two of the emails that were in the middle of the controversy in the New York Post’s article were indeed true.
Similarly, just a few weeks ago, the New York Times (which has been asking for court orders to investigate Hunter Biden) also admitted that the laptop from which the Post took its story was real, and used various emails from said laptop to confirm stories regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings with Burisma.
NPR, which took the most radical approach at first by deciding to immediately say the article was “not a real story” and avoided any coverage, made a correction in an online article that claimed that the laptop story had been “discredited by US intelligence and independent investigations by news organizations,” clarifying now that such an assessment was never made by American intelligence. However, NPR has yet to issue an apology or correction to the initial decision by their editorial board to completely ignore the story.
The Hunter Laptop story is still being written, there are many reasonable doubts over its origins, the way the evidence was handled, and the implications of the emails. Just because it has been confirmed the laptop and many of its emails are real doesn’t mean the larger allegations about Hunter are true. However, it is the role of media outlets to report and confirm the news, and some outlets decided to make a prejudgment of a story and tech giants are not supposed to unilaterally decide what story is “harmful” or not, especially when the article comes from a mainstream media source and is published just a few days before the election.