Has the Paper of Record teamed up with Breitbart to take down Joe Biden? That’s the weird claim in an extraordinary letter to the New York Times’ managing editor from a Biden campaign official. Following the Times’ publication of an op-ed column from conservative author Peter Schweitzer about Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine, deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield accused Dean Baquet of “active participation” in a “smear campaign” that dates back to May of this year … in their fevered imaginations, anyway:

The Biden 2020 campaign has sent a withering letter to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, blasting the newspaper’s coverage of their candidate and claiming that the paper has “had an outsized hand in the spread” of a “baseless conspiracy theory” about the former vice president.

According to Oliver Darcy in CNN’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter, deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield fired off the angry message on Wednesday evening, in part prompted by a Times op-ed published earlier in the day that attacked Joe Biden. That column was written by Breitbart contributor Peter Schweizer a Republican opposition researcher who authored the right-wing attack tome Clinton Cash and who has been identified as a source of the baseless claim that Biden engaged in corruption in Ukraine.

“What was especially troubling about the Times‘ active participation in this smear campaign is that prior to its reporting on the subject by Ken Vogel, this conspiracy had been relegated to the likes of Breitbart, Russian propaganda, and another conspiracy theorist, regular Hannity guest John Solomon,” Bedingfield complained to the Times. 

It’s one thing for a candidate and/or a campaign to complain about coverage and commentary. It’s quite another to specifically accuse its managing editor of “active participation” in a “smear campaign,” while at the same time griping about a “baseless conspiracy theory.” Irony is apparently invisible at Team Biden, especially when given the parameters of this conspiracy theory, which pairs the New York Times with Breitbart News.

Even the coverage of this has everyone seeing conspiracy theories where there just might be, y’know, reporting:

Ahem. The Uranium One issue was hardly a conspiracy theory, although it might have played into other conspiracy theories. The Clintons got cash both directly and into their foundation from players in that deal, which got approved by the Obama administration while Hillary served as Secretary of State. The $500,000 payday Bill got for a speech with a Russian bank linked to the deal was real enough, and certainly indicated the potential for corruption. There was more evidence of that potential in the Uranium One deal than there ever was in the Russia-collusion theory, for instance, and yet the media seemed highly disinterested in the former — and still apparently are.

Calling the Bidens’ influence-peddling track record a “conspiracy theory” is equally absurd. Hunter Biden’s sudden employment by Burisma while Joe Biden was VP despite having no qualifications in either the energy industry or Ukraine is not a conspiracy theory — it’s a fact. So too are Hunter’s business ventures in China while his father conducted US diplomatic and security efforts there, along with John Kerry’s son when Kerry was Secretary of State. Joe’s brother James has a long track record of hinting that his businesses gave investors access to Joe. Those issues have been covered by more than just the NYT and Breitbart; Politico has done extensive work on the topic too, and the Intercept’s Ryan Grim just ran a helpful roundup of the allegations yesterday. “Democrats need to acknowledge that,” Grim noted. Maybe some media outlets do, too.

Was Joe aware of the attempts at influence peddling? That has never been established, but there have been enough attempts at it surrounding him that it’s tough to imagine that he’s unaware of the risk. Asking that question isn’t a conspiracy theory, nor is it a “smear campaign.” We could start by finding out what purpose Hunter Biden served at Burisma other than political window dressing while taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. What was the expertise Hunter had that earned that kind of money? If there’s an answer to that other than “his last name,” then maybe we can dispense with this story.

Back to the Times/Breitbart plot, however. Which publication would be more offended at the suggestion that they’re working with the other? That’s a tough call, but I’d guess that the NYT would win that contest while Breitbart would be a lot more vocal about it.

Update: Changed “Biden” to “Team Biden” in the headline for better accuracy.