News consumers should be gratified to know that the
New York Times
has decided it will demand the highest journalistic standards—at least from its crosstown rivals. Just three days after a Times writer formally announced that the newspaper is transitioning “from the stodgy paper of record into a juicy collection of great narratives,” Times staff is now attacking the juiciest narrative of the 2020 campaign.
The kerfuffle began with a story published this morning in the New York Post, a Times rival which, like the Journal, is owned by News Corp. The Post’s Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge report:
Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company, according to emails obtained by The Post.
The never-before-revealed meeting is mentioned in a message of appreciation that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, allegedly sent Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015, about a year after Hunter joined the Burisma board at a reported salary of up to $50,000 a month.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email reads.
An earlier email from May 2014 also shows Pozharskyi, reportedly Burisma’s No. 3 exec, asking Hunter for “advice on how you could use your influence” on the company’s behalf.
The blockbuster correspondence — which flies in the face of Joe Biden’s claim that he’s “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings” — is contained in a massive trove of data recovered from a laptop computer.
There’s no question it’s a juicy narrative, and the Post’s principal source, former New York Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, says it’s going to get juicier. Mr. Giuliani tweets today:
Emails from Hunter Biden’s hard drive reveal Joe Biden lied about BURISMA.
Much more to come.
But the Times doesn’t seem to like this particular juicy narrative, and some of its employees have taken to Twitter to raise questions about the account. For example Maggie Haberman wonders why Senate government affairs committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) never found such evidence:
Things that are sketchy in NYP story on Hunter Biden – why wasn’t this in Ron Johnson report if it’s been in possession for awhile? When did Giuliani acquire it? Giuliani has been everywhere on the but this has been kicking around since late last year and unreleased till now?
It seems that reinstating the stodgy traditions of journalism is the Times policy when a narrative heads in a dangerous political direction. And the Times isn’t the only place that has suddenly become cautious about reporting on the foreign relationships of presidential candidates.
Sounding like a traditional publisher rather than a manager of an open communications network,
Andy Stone writes on Twitter:
While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.
Update: Twitter is blocking sharing of the Post story with a note saying, “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.”
Kyle Griffin of MSNBC instructs:
No one should link to or share that NY Post ‘report’. You can discuss the obvious flaws and unanswerable questions in the report without amplifying what appears to be disinformation.
Politico’s Kyle Cheney has also been expressing his skepticism about the Post story but he seems to want to hedge his bets in case the report is accurate. He tweets:
Again, stipulating that the suspect email is real, there’s literally nothing in it that says Joe Biden met with a Burisma adviser.
“The opportunity to meet,” may just as easily have meant Hunter promised a meeting in the future that may never have occurred.
Possibly true, but if the emails are real it would still demonstrate that the Bidens have been hiding the true nature of the services Hunter Biden was performing for his lucrative paycheck. The already questionable Biden justifications for maintaining this clear conflict of interest fall apart. The Post says the Biden campaign did not respond to its inquiry.
But now Politico reports that a Biden campaign spokesman says that “we have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”
Does this mean that the Bidens aren’t disputing the authenticity of the emails? The qualifier about Mr. Biden’s official schedule also suggests that even the denial of a meeting–via a spokesman–is fairly weak.
Jonathan Chait at New York magazine seems to fear the email correspondence is legitimate because by early afternoon he was already spinning this morning’s shocking report as old news:
The emails, if they are legitimate, show once again that Hunter Biden was trying to gain influence for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that hired him, in an obvious ploy to gain an entry into Joe Biden’s inner circle… Was Burisma paying Hunter Biden in an attempt to influence his father? Yes.
This column must have missed the press conference where the Bidens admitted they were running an influence-peddling operation to leverage the vice presidency of the United States. Are all of Hunter Biden’s foreign business arrangements covers for lobbying operations and did he register as a foreign agent for each overseas sham?
Mr. Chait also continues to insist, like so many other media pundits, that when Vice President Joe Biden forced the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor, it carried no benefit for Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky.
In August this column noted why that’s a highly questionable assumption:
A lot of media folk argue that the investigation of Hunter Biden’s business associate had essentially ended long before the elder Biden forced the sacking of the prosecutor. But even a long-winded effort to make this argument by the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column in 2019 acknowledged that an asset seizure order against the oligarch had been reinstated a mere two weeks before the prosecutor’s firing. The story also acknowledged that the asset seizure wasn’t lifted and the case wasn’t closed until after the Ukrainians had complied with the Biden demand to fire the prosecutor.
Even if the conventional media view of the case is accurate, it still doesn’t explain why the Ukrainian energy tycoon felt the need to rent a Biden who knew nothing about Ukraine or energy.
If the Bidens now want to admit they were selling political juice, the question is what exactly they delivered in terms of U.S. policy. And if they say they never gave the oligarch what he wanted, why did he keep writing checks for years?
If the New York Times and other media outlets in 2016 had made the same effort they’ve made in today’s attempt to poke holes in the Post report, the bogus Russia collusion story would have died before Donald Trump even took office.
Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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Mr. Freeman is also the co-author of “Borrowed Time.”
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