It has been over a year since Big Tech companies and media outlets conspired to discredit the Hunter Biden laptop story broken by the New York Post. And yet, despite such efforts to squash or discredit the story, the implications of the astonishing episode are still being felt in American political and cultural life.
“I don’t think there’s any story that’s as telling about where our media is, where our culture is then that one,” Fourth Watch newsletter editor Steve Krakauer told Fox News recently.
On Oct. 14, 2020, with less than a month before Election Day, the New York Post published a story that Hunter Biden introduced his father to a top Ukrainian energy executive, which the Post reported “flies in the face of Joe Biden’s claim that he’s ‘never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.'” The blockbuster story noted the email correspondence proving the scoop came from a tranche of data from Hunter Biden’s laptop – left in a repair shop and apparently abandoned in 2019 – and also included images of him appearing to smoke crack cocaine and engage in a sex act with an unidentified woman.
With the heated race between Biden and President Donald Trump coming to a head, the provenance of the story, rather than its subject matter, became a subject of fierce debate among alarmed media and tech officials. And the efforts to suppress and even bury the illicit accounts by the leftwing dominated mainstream press started almost immediately.
“The media and Big Tech suppressed it so completely that you couldn’t even talk about it on social media. It is a meddling in elections unlike anything we have seen before, and it was done throughout the entire information environment,” said The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, whose new book “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections” extensively examines the episode.
Facebook’s Policy Communications Director Andy Stone said the site would be “reducing its distribution on our platform” and added, “this story is eligible to be fact-checked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners.” Twitter, claiming the story violated its terms of service on hacked materials, locked the New York Post out of its account for weeks, and blocked users from sharing the story link. A conservative outcry erupted, and Twitter eventually restored the Post’s account later that month.
Politico published an article quoting “dozens of former intel officials,” some of whom had endorsed Joe Biden for president, who declared the story Russian disinformation without evidence. It was called a “baseless conspiracy theory,” “flatly false,” “dubious,” “fishy,” and a “smear campaign,” and NPR even went out of its way to discuss why it wasn’t covering the laptop’s contents. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman was called “MAGA Haberman” by infuriated critics after she merely shared a quote from the Post article; she eventually deleted the tweet.
Biden went on to defeat Trump in November. Whether the story being allowed to be shared normally would have changed the election’s outcome is impossible to know, but it brought a whole new meaning to the term “October surprise.”
“This was obviously an effort to get candidate Biden over the finish line. And it worked,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha said.
Krakauer and others believe that it was collective media “guilt” over the 2016 election and the feverish coverage of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal that significantly played into why outlets broke down over the New York Post story. Clinton and liberal media outlets have repeatedly excoriated the press – including themselves – since her stunning loss to Trump over what they viewed as too much focus on her private email server at the State Department, which played into wider issues of voter distrust.
“I really think journalists had this post-2016 flashback moment, where the people that had shared stories about Hillary’s emails in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election felt personally guilty that they had somehow contributed to Trump miraculously winning in 2016, and they were shamed by others on Twitter and elsewhere for doing this,” Krakauer said. “I think there [was] absolutely a fear that if we give this any amount of attention, it’s going to be 2016 all over again, and we’re going to be viewed as the people who destroyed democracy.”
This was the culmination of years of problems the media have had where they invented fake news stories about Donald Trump, and they suppressed news stories that they thought would hurt his political opponents, but there was never anything as explosive or obvious or bad as what they did with the Hunter Biden story,” Hemingway said.
“Anybody in a position of power who’s dealing with the corrupt media needs to treat them like the propagandists that they are,” she added. “Don’t treat them like they’re operating in good faith. This is not the first time they’ve done this.”
And it certainly won’t be the last, but you can rely on these pages to report the truth when and where we see it!