Washington Post: Media outlets probably need to reflect on the Hunter Biden laptop story

Washington Post: Media outlets probably need to reflect on the Hunter Biden laptop story
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Last week the Washington Post published a long-overdue investigation of the material found on Hunter Biden’s laptop. While the Post wasn’t able to verify all or even a majority of the documents it was about to verify about 22 thousand emails, representing at least 20% of the total found on the drive.


Yesterday, the Post published an editorial about the story which simultaneously called for a “reckoning” among media outlets who ignored and downplayed the story back in 2020 when it was first published by the NY Post, but the editorial also offers a justification for the hesitancy of outlets like the NY Times and Washington Post.

For now, what’s more compelling than the assorted accusations about the Bidens’ behavior is this question: Why is confirmation of a story that first surfaced in the fall of 2020 emerging only now? When the New York Post published its blockbuster exclusive on the contents of a laptop said to have been abandoned at a Delaware repair shop by Hunter Biden, mainstream media organizations balked at running with the same narrative. Social media sites displayed even greater caution. Twitter blocked the story altogether, pointing to a policy against hacked materials, and suspended the New York Post’s account for sharing it; Facebook downranked the story in the algorithms that govern users’ news feeds for fear that it was based on misinformation. Now, The Washington Post and the New York Times have vouched for many of the relevant communications.

This series of events has prompted allegations of a coverup, or at best a double standard in the treatment of conservative and liberal politicians by mainstream media and social media sites. Yet there was reason in this case for reluctance on the part of the publications and the platforms alike. Both had been the unwitting tools of a Russian influence campaign in 2016, and it was only prudent to suspect a similar plot lay behind the mysterious appearance of a computer stuffed with juicy documents and conveniently handed over to President Donald Trump’s toxic personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Indeed, at the time there was also an ongoing disinformation operation from Moscow involving — among other things — doctored recordings supposedly showing Joe Biden improperly pressuring the then-president of Ukraine to aid Hunter Biden’s business interests — a fraud promoted by Mr. Giuliani.


We’ve heard this all before and it continues to ring hollow. There were plenty of reasons to be suspicious of the Russian collusion narrative as well. There was concern that document might contain Russian disinformation as far back as 2016 and yet the same outlets that squashed the Hunter Biden story spent the next several years making Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia the biggest story in the country. In any case, the Post’s editorial concludes with the suggestion that maybe the media overcorrected.

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 idea that there is a set of neutral rules that can explain all of this is simply laughable. What explains the media’s treatment of the Hunter Biden story is pure partisanship. The concerns about disinformation were heightened specifically because airing the story had the potential to harm the Democratic candidate. Had it been the other way around and a major October surprise was dropped on Trump in the weeks before the election, no one would have hesitated to run with that story.

Glenn Greenwald sees the Post editorial as a mixed bag.


On the other hand…

As late and mealy-mouthed as the Post editorial is, it was still too much for most of the commenters. The majority of the top comments on the story are all blaming the Post for giving the story too much credit and for not going after Don Jr. and Jared and Ivanka instead. For example:

Double standard ? BS. Press is playing up Hunter’s dealings but I don’t remember the press deep diving into Jared and Ivanka’s dealings.

This one, from a commenter called “The Choobs,” made me laugh. [emphasis added]

Last I checked, nobody I know voted for Hunter Biden. And unlike Ivanka and Jared, who both have shady business dealings of their own, Hunter does not work in the WH, doesn’t use his WH position for personal financial gain, and doesn’t use personal email accounts for government business.


Yeah, it’s not as if Hunter benefited financially from being a Biden or something. C’mon, man! And it just keeps going like this: Whatabout Don Jr?

Strange how you didn’t assemble a team of reporters to look into the activities of Don Jr and Eric as they hustled cash for the old man around the world, or Jared and Ivanka as they made millions of dollars while part of the administration, or the family member hawking visas to Chinese investors.

And you got the information on the laptop from a Republican operative. That’s the real sleaze.

Those are the comments getting upvoted the most but there are more than a few people seeing the big picture even if the Post’s regular readers don’t like what they’re saying as much.

I find it hypocritical of the WAPO and other main stream media to report on the Steele Dossier without verifying it. It turns out to be false according to Durham’s investigation. Yet, the same media outlets waited 18 months to verify Hunter’s laptop.

I guess the Post deserves some credit for at least mentioning the obvious double standard that was used here. That’s more than most of the outlets who tried their best to shut this down have done.

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