Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome At The MRC
The Media Research Center slavishly stuck to right-wing narratives in order to personally destroy President Biden's son and try to derail the father's election and presidency.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center is nothing if not a slave to right-wing narratives -- especially so regarding Hunter Biden. Back in 2019, for instance, it labored to blame Biden for Donald Trump trying to blackmail Ukraine into digging up dirt on him.
During the 2020 election cycle, the MRC referenced Hunter Biden more than 150 times in the final few weeks before the election because it was so desperate to smear his father and Trump's opponent, Joe Biden, by hyping a New York Post story claiming to have stumbled across a laptop once belonging to Biden. It denied the story was Russian disinformation -- despite the fact that the Post offered no independent verification of the laptop's provenance and that the story was being promoted by pro-Trump partisans like Rudy Giuliani -- and it promoted a claim (reported by the less-than-objective Fox News) that the FBI and Department of Justice claimed it wasn't Russian disinformation, despite the fact that both agencies were highly politicized under Trump.
Tim Graham even bashed NPR for caring about Hunter Biden's mental health by noting that he has a history of drug issues and the right-wing media's vicious attacks on him could cause him "shame and isolation." Graham whined "So Hunter Biden's behavior is not a 'character defect,' but attacking him is," adding, "So the Trumps are so cruel, they make the fathers of dead addicts cry." Graham then tried to sic his readers on NPR reporter Brian Mann: "Perhaps the taxpayers who fund this emotional propaganda should contact NPR public editor Kelly McBride about the potential conflict of putting a reporter who's lost family members to addiction on a politically sensitive story like this right before an election -- especially if he leaves out all of the other elements of the Hunter Biden story." Graham made no mention of the conflict of interest at the New York Post and Giuliani supporting Trump while trying to personally destroy the son of Trump's opponent.
The MRC, of course, also did its usual so-called studies complaining that the non-Fox News media wasn't covering the story enough. It conveniently ignored how much coverage Fox News did devote to it, which was a lot. That non-coverage was at the center of the MRC's own version of Trump's Big Lie conspiracy theory about election fraud.
The MRC is so dedicated to the personal destruction of Hunter Biden that it even devoted numerous posts to attacking him for writing a memoir that was published in early 2021. Scott Whitlock whined in a April 2 post:
Hunter Biden has a lucrative new book to promote, So now it’s okay to ask him basic questions about a missing laptop that may implicate his dad, the now-president, in business dealing with China and Ukraine. CBS will have a pair of interviews with Hunter airing on Sunday and Monday morning. CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King on Friday reacted to a preview of one by gushing, “What Hunter just said there I thought was gave me goosebumps.
After Hunter said he wasn't sure whether the laptop was his, Whitlock huffed: "Perhaps the networks and other outlets should have been following the laptop story more closely last year during the presidential election. Instead they ignored or tried to debunk the story." Again, the story still had yet to be independently confirmed, and given that it was forwarded by Trump allies like Giuliani and the New York Post, there was (and is) plenty of reason to not accept the story at face value.
Bill D'Agostino similarly complained in an April 4 post:
Hunter Biden’s new book deal landed him a sympathetic interview on this weekend’s CBS News Sunday Morning with correspondent Tracy Smith. While the interview alluded to various political scandals plaguing the younger Biden (namely the Burisma controversy, the laptop scandal, and an ongoing active investigation into his finances), it provided viewers with barely any information about the scandals themselves, while giving him plenty of time to argue his innocence.
That same day, P.J. Gladnick raged that a Politico article called Hunter a "noted locomotive expert" in an article because he once served on the Amtrak: "Does that mean that high speed rail conferences around the world are incomplete without the input of Hunter Biden, the "noted locomotive expert?" And how did Hunter gain such expertise on the subject to the extent to be on the board of Amtrak? Well, he did it by riding the choo-choo a lot."
Whitlock returned to huff: "CBS donated 25 minutes of air time to syrupy, softball interviews of Hunter Biden. Despite the massive amount of coverage, the journalists offered little in the way of curiosity about what was actually on the laptop Biden now admits 'certainly' could have been his." He further dismissed this as "Biden propaganda" and complained that Hunter's book was published by a division of the company that owns CBS.
Tim Graham devoted his April 7 column to complaining that Hunter -- and, by extension, Joe Biden -- wasn't being destroyed as a man while promoting his book, bashing one reviewer for saying that the book "humanizes Hunter." We wouldn't want that, would we, Tim? Dehumanization makes it easier to attack his target, after all. Graham further complained: "The most overlooked fact on the Hunter Biden book-and-sympathy tour is that he was committing many of these financial scams and behavioral debaucheries while his father was in the obscure job of... Vice President of the United States."
Curtis Houck touted pornography in an April 9 post:
Scandal-plagued First Family member Hunter Biden continued his book tour late Thursday with a softball-laden interview with ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who assisted him in not only dismissing the infamous laptop as “a red herring” because it came from Rudy Giuliani, but declare that he was eminently qualified to served on the board of Burisma.
Like Graham, Houck groused that Hunter said he wrote the book to "humanize people suffering from addiction," and continued to treat Hunter as the less-than-human he clearly believes the guy is: "While the interview started on a bizarre note before going to the softball portion, Kimmel ended with a retelling of how quickly Biden married his current wife less than a week after they met. Of course, there was nothing about how Biden dated his late brother Beau’s widow for a period of time."
(Also: The Daily Mail is even less credible than Giuliani and the New York Post, which Houck somehow forgot to mention.)
Graham devoted a podcast the same day to the Kimmel interview, in which he whined that Hunter wouldn't appear on Fox News and the Kimmel's interview was "uber-sympathetic, apologies to Uber." We wouldn't want anyone to think Hunter Biden is a human deserving of even a bit of sympathy, eh, Tim?
Graham whined further that Hunter Biden hasn't been subjected to fact-checking by PolitiFact while the Trump children have been. He forgot to mention that the Trump children, unlike Hunter, have been very politically active in service to their father and, thus, make political statements that are fact-check-worthy.
You might call all this Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome.
N.Y. Times investigates
Fast-forward to March of this year, when the New York Times did what the New York Post refused to do and apparently verified the authenticity of emails found on what has been alleged to be Hunter's laptop. Needless to say, the MRC was quick to declare victory and vindication, and Curtis Houck went into derangement overdrive in a March 17 post:
In a story posted Wednesday night, The New York Times finally came around to implicitly admitting to what many knew in 2020 but, like the intrepid New York Post, were censored for saying: The emails on Hunter Biden’s laptop are indeed real. And, worse yet, the specific e-mails that The Times confirmed involved Burisma.
Of course Houck praised a Fox channel for pushing the story -- he's effectively Peter Doocy's PR agent, after All. And note his enthusiasm for the more salacious details of the story, showing his ultimate motive here is personal destruction, not factual accuracy, something that can be said for many of the right-wing promoters of the story.
What he didn't do, however, is explain why this story should matter to anyone outside his right-wing bubble, or even why the pro-Trump New York Post should have been taken at face value when the story first surfaced there. As Vox summarized, the story about the alleged Hunter laptop surfaced before the 2020 presidential election as an obvious attempt at an October surprise, the laptop itself had been handled only by pro-Trump operatives, no verification was offered of the laptop and its contents at the time and even the owner of the repair shop the laptops were dropped off at -- who is conveniently blind so he couldn't even identify who dropped them off -- is a Trump supporter. (One New York Post reporter refused to put their byline on the story.) Even though the emails may be real, it doesn't mean the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden; its provenance and chain of custody remain a mystery. The emails also failed to prove any actual corruption they could like to Joe Biden; as Vox noted, "The emails didn’t dominate mainstream media because, at least so far, they didn’t have the goods."
But when has a lack of goods stopped anyone in the right-wing media from embracing a narrative they think will work? The MRC cranked out numerous posts about it in the following days:
Some of these posts went beyond established fact to portray the entire "Hunter Biden laptop story" as having been proven real -- which it hasn't. And all of these posts avoid mentioning the fact that the story would have been believed much earlier had irrefutable verification of the contents of the laptop been presented at the time to overcome the natural reflex to not believe salacious claims made during the heat of an election.
Then again, offering logical arguments are not the intent of this torrent of content -- keeping a dubious story alive by flooding the zone is. And despite this torrent, the MRC has yet to explain why anyone outside of its right-wing bubble should care about Hunter Biden for reasons that don't involve the obsessive right-wing war against the Bidens.
Wash. Post investigates
The MRC's Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome continued a few weeks later following a Washington Post report on what could be confirmed as authentic -- and, just as importantly, what couldn't -- on Hunter Biden's alleged laptop. Naturally, Houck was again quick to declare victory in a March 30 post:
Late Wednesday morning, The Washington Post decided that, as our Tim Graham tweeted, Democracy Has a Sunrise instead of Dying in Darkness as reporters Matt Viser, Tom Hamburger, and Craig Timberg published two bombshell articles acknowledging the existence of the infamous Hunter Biden laptop and detailing the First Son’s life of corruption as it relates to a Chinese energy company.
Actually, the Daily Caller claimed to confirm the authenticity of only a single email, not the entire laptop -- and given its reputation as a partisan right-wing media outlet and the fact that this came in the run-up to an election, there was no reason to take its word for it at face value.
Houck also proclaimed, "As we found after the 2020 election, 9.4 percent of Biden voters in swing states wouldn’t have voted for him if they had been made aware of his son’s negligence." The MRC didn't "find" this -- again, it paid Trump's pollster to manufacture this result in order to push Donald Trump's Big Lie about a stolen election.
Houck did grudgingly admit that much of the laptop's contents couldn't be verified because of, as the Post stated, "sloppy handling of the data" by the right-wing activists who had been passing the laptop's contents around -- which puts the lie to Houck's headline claiming that the Post story was "confirming Hunter Biden's laptop." He then whined that the Post was "downplaying the 22,000 confirmed e-mails as 'routine messages, such as political newsletters, fundraising appeals, hotel receipts, news alerts, product ads, real estate listings and notifications related to his daughters’ schools or sports teams' and 'bank notifications'" and that it "shamelessly downplayed the lies and screeches about the laptop being Russian disinformation."
So, yes, skepticism about the laptop's provenance were absolutely justified at the time, and the fact that only some of those questions have been resolved a year and a half after the story was unleashed confirms that skepticism. It was only pro-Trump political partisan activists like Houck and the MRC who demanded that the laptop story be swallowed whole with no questions asked whatsoever.
At least the Washington Post bothered to try to authenticate what was claimed to be on the laptop. Neither Houck nor anyone else at the MRC did so before obsessively touting it in an attempt to damage Joe Biden's election chances and, perhaps, drive Hunter Biden to suicidal behavior. They would have been pleased with either result -- or both.
Once again, the MRC shifted into Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome overdrive over the following few days to hype those findings and attack anyone who didn't as politically motivated to hype it as much as it was:
So obsessed was the MRC with Hunter Biden that at one point on March 31, of the 14 slots in the top section of the NewsBusters front page, 10 featured Hunter-related content.
The dishonest framing continued as well. An April 1 column by Tim Graham declared that the Post found that "a notable fraction of Hunter’s laptop contents were authentic." Actually, the Post stated that while some email messages could be verified, the vast majority of the laptop's alleged contents couldn't be because of "sloppy handling of the data" by the right-wing activists who had been passing the laptop's contents around. Graham went on to whine that "the broadcast network morning and evening newscasts went 260 days without mentioning Hunter Biden" -- but avoided the inescapable fact that there was every reason not to trust the contents given that they came from right-wing operatives as an October surprise during a presidential campaign and those operatives provided no verification of the data.
An April 4 post by Scott Whitlock misleadingly portrayed the laptop's contents as verifiably "accurate" from the start and what "what millions of Americans already knew," then complained that the Post highlighted that perfectly reasonable mistrust of the partisan sources as a reason the story was ignored outside the right-wing media bubble.
Whining about fact-checks
It wouldn't be a full Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome outbreak without some whining about fact-checkers. And chief fact-checker-whiner Tim Graham did his bit in a March 24 post:
In the wake of the New York Times whispering in print on page A-20 that the Hunter Biden laptop emails were authentic, the "fact checking"/censorship complex is in need of scrutiny. Jacob Siegel of Tablet Magazine wrote up a tart piece titled "Invasion of the Fact-Checkers" that explored how private media power and the Democrats engage in shutting down narratives they don't like.
Like the rest of his MRC crew, Graham ignored the fact that the Hunter Biden story would not have been so easily dismissed if the New York Post had simply provided independent corroboration that the laptop and the information on it was genuine to the point of effectively countering speculation that it was Russian disinformation, and its provenance originating with anti-Biden activists like Giuliani did nothing to boost its credibility. The fact that it took more than a year to actually verify the emails shows that the media was not wrong in initially dismissing it.
Joseph Vazquez lashed out a fact-checkers again in a March 28 post:
So-called fact-checkers should be eating crow following authentication of the emails from Hunter Biden’s notorious laptop by The New York Times. But a new analysis shows they’re being as brazen as ever by not updating old articles challenging the credibility of the story.
Vazquez too failed to acknowledge the fact that the Post offered no independent corroboration of the laptop and its contents when the story came out. He went on to whine:
Lead Stories in particular, targeted an “exclusive” Daily Caller story on one of the laptop emails considered to be the “smoking gun” in the Post story. The Daily Caller said in a tweet of its story that a cybersecurity expert concluded the “@nypost's smoking gun April 2015 Hunter Biden email from a Burisma executive discussing an introduction to then-Vice President Joe Biden is 100% authentic.”
Vazquez didn't explain why the Post and the Daily Caller should have been trusted implicitly when the story came out, given their status as conservative pro-Trump and anti-Biden outlets who had an unmistakable mission to help Donald Trump win re-election in 2020.
Again: All of this could have been avoided if the Post had offered unassailable verification at the time. It didn't, so it was perfectly reasonable to dismiss the story as coming from biased sources. Graham and Vazquez bashing fact-checkers for not immediately verifying something that even the source publication couldn't be bothered to do is dishonest and unfair.
Even more attacks (and a double standard)
Not only did Houck work his Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome into his White House press briefing writeups, it even worked up a double standard over him getting Secret Service protection as the son of the president. Houck ranted in an April 4 post:
Along with CBS Mornings and NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America decided it wouldn’t do its job on Monday of covering the latest layer of the Hunter Biden saga as a new report said the Secret Service is spending “more than $30,000 a month to rent out a swanky Malibu, California, mansion” to protect the First Son.
Houck didn't mention that Fox News has a serious anti-Biden bias.
Kevin Tober took over the whining later that day:
After ignoring the story during their morning news shows, all three evening newscasts (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, & NBC Nightly News) continued their omission of the latest scandal surrounding Hunter Biden, as a new report out shows the Secret Service is currently spending more than $30,000 a month to rent the property next to Hunter's luxurious home in Malibu, California in order to protect him.
Like Houck, Tober didn't disclose Fox News' anti-Biden bias, which would explain the wall-to-wall coverage it devoted to the subject.
By contrast, the MRC was silent when it was revealed that the Secret Service spent $3,000 a month -- for a total of more than $100,000 over the Trump presidency -- to pay for use of a bathroom next door to the mansion where Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, lived. It was also silent about a similar inconvenient revelation, that before leaving office, Donald Trump secretly awarded six additional months of Secret Service protection for his children and other administration officials at a cost of $1.7 million, and that he also "required the Secret Service to devote agents and money to an unexpected set of people: wealthy adults, with no role in government, whom the agents trailed to ski vacations, weekend houses, a resort in Cabo San Lucas, and business trips abroad."
If the MRC actually cared about wasteful government spending, it would have pointed that out. But it cares only about politics and playing gotcha on President Biden and his family. The above posts made that clear. Houck whined that "The liberal media spent over four years losing its mind over any and all matters concerning the protection of President Trump and his family, but they’ve shown an aversion to the same posture with their own team and the Biden family," and Tober similarly groused: "If the first son's name was Hunter Trump instead of Hunter Biden, you can bet that all three networks would be setting their hair on fire with rage over this abuse of taxpayer dollars by Hunter. Of course, his last name is Biden so the leftist media is always happy to look the other way."
But if your last name is Trump (or you're married to one), the MRC is happy to give you a pass for your profligate security spending.