During the 2020 presidential election, the legacy media collectively disregarded the Hunter Biden laptop story as a baseless right-wing conspiracy and even a Russian disinformation effort. 

But since President Biden was elected, the same media outlets that rejected the damning revelations as unsubstantial are now admitting there was legitimacy all along. Some critics have charged the combination of prominent newspapers and networks turning a blind eye and Big Tech censoring the New York Post's bombshell reporting aided Joe Biden's candidacy in the weeks ahead of his eventual election victory. 

The New York Times published a story Wednesday evening that was a deep dive into the Justice Department's ongoing investigation of Hunter Biden, who himself publicly acknowledged in December 2020 that the feds were looking into his "tax affairs."


The Times reported that while Hunter Biden has "paid off a significant tax liability," a federal grand jury has subpoenaed witnesses and documents regarding his foreign business dealings. 

"The investigation, which began as a tax inquiry under the Obama administration, widened in 2018 to include possible criminal violations of tax laws, as well as foreign lobbying and money laundering rules, according to the people familiar with the inquiry," the Times wrote. "But prosecutors face a number of hurdles to bringing criminal charges, the people familiar with the investigation said, including proving that Mr. Biden intentionally violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires disclosure to the Justice Department of lobbying or public relations assistance on behalf of foreign clients."

Hunter Biden. Photo credit: Getty Images

Buried in the Times' lengthy article was a paragraph addressing a "cache" of emails the paper reviewed as part of its report. 

"People familiar with the investigation said prosecutors had examined emails between Mr. Biden, Mr. Archer and others about Burisma and other foreign business activity. Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation," the Times wrote. 


The laptop the Times referred to was the same laptop at the center of the New York Post's explosive reporting, which published several emails that came from a copy of Hunter Biden's hard drive just weeks before the 2020 election. 

At the time, The Daily Caller independently verified the authenticity of what the Post described as the "smoking gun" email showing an advisor of Ukrainian energy company Burisma's board of directors thanking Hunter Biden for coordinating a meeting with his father in Washington D.C. in 2015.

But the New York Times was far more skeptical of the Hunter Biden laptop story, writing, "The authenticity of the email correspondence cited by The Post could not be independently verified."

Hunter Biden. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images) (Photo by Teresa Kroeger)

"The Biden campaign on Wednesday rejected a New York Post report about Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter that the nation’s leading social media companies deemed so dubious that they limited access to the article on their platforms," the Times framed the revelations in an Oct. 14, 2020 report. "The report, appearing just three weeks before the election, was based on material provided by Republican allies of President Trump who have tried for months to tarnish Mr. Biden over his son. It claimed that the elder Mr. Biden had met with an adviser to a Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden served."

The report offered non-critical coverage of Facebook and Twitter's decision to censor the Post's report claiming it was based on "hacked" material, which itself was an unsubstantiated charge, and even entertained the notion that Russia could be involved in the publicizing of Hunter Biden's emails. 


The Times ran a separate report sounding the alarm about "Russian disinformation," claiming then-President Trump was warned that Russians were "using" his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was given the laptop before providing its contents to the press, to spread false claims about the Bidens. 

"The intelligence agencies warned the White House late last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential run, according to four current and former American officials," the Times wrote on Oct. 15, 2020. 

Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and former personal attorney for President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Politico similarly elevated the "Russian disinformation" narrative, running the headline, "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say."

The report on Oct. 19, 2020, authored by Natasha Bertrand, now a CNN reporter, highlighted an open letter signed by "more than 50 former senior intelligence officials" who insisted that the published emails from the laptop had "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation."

The letter, which was parroted by much of the media, baselessly suggested the emails were hacked and could have been tampered with by the Kremlin in order to make their contents look incriminating. 

Signatories of that letter included outspoken Trump critics John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, and Jeremy Bash, many of whom work as analysts on MSNBC and CNN and supported Joe Biden's candidacy.


However, like The New York Times, Politico confirmed some of the material first reported by the New York Post.

"A person who had independent access to Hunter Biden’s emails confirmed he did receive a 2015 email from a Ukrainian businessman thanking him for the chance to meet Joe Biden. The same goes for a 2017 email in which a proposed equity breakdown of a venture with Chinese energy executives includes the line, ‘10 held by H for the big guy?’" the Politico Playbook wrote in September 2021, based on reporting from Politico correspondent Ben Schreckinger's book. "Emails released by a Swedish government agency also match emails in the leaked cache, and two people who corresponded with Hunter Biden confirmed emails from the cache were genuine." 

Politico added, "While the leak contains genuine files, it remains possible that fake material has been slipped in."

Hunter Biden Joe BIden

FILE - Then Vice President-elect, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., left, stands with his son Hunter during a re-enactment of the Senate oath ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

While The New York Times and Politico eventually saw the light, there are several news organizations that famously dismissed the Hunter Biden scandal during the 2020 election. 

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent quickly declared the day after the New York Post first began reporting on the alleged contents of Hunter Biden's laptop that it was "Trump's fake new Biden scandal," calling the allegations "laughably weak."

"While Trump and his propagandists would surely prefer to have a more compelling scandal to tout, the thinness of this new gruel is largely secondary," Sargent wrote on Oct. 15, stressing Steve Bannon's involvement in the distribution of the laptop's contents. "Trump’s last-ditch hope is to cast a vague pall of corruption over Biden ... But plainly, the mere fact of covering smears and disinformation, even negatively, itself rewards their purveyors."


NPR public editor Kelly McBride addressed a listener's question about the news outlet's blackout of the Hunter Biden story at the time. After claiming the New York Post's reporting had "many, many red flags," including its potential ties to Russia, NPR apparently determined that the "assertions don’t amount to much."

"We don't want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don't want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions," NPR managing editor Terence Samuel told McBride. "And quite frankly, that's where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event and we decided to treat it that way."

Hunter Biden and the New York Post cover story implicating him and his father, Joe Biden. (Kris Connor/WireImage   |   New York Post)

Unlike NPR, CNN wasn't nearly as transparent with its efforts to spike the Hunter Biden story. In December 2020, Project Veritas leaked audio recordings of conference calls featuring CNN's top executives urging staff to avoid the Biden scandal during the election. 

"Obviously, we're not going with the New York Post story right now on Hunter Biden," CNN political director David Chalian said during a conference call on Oct. 14, the same day the Post published its first story on Hunter Biden's emails. Chalian later insisted the report was "giving its marching orders" to the "right-wing echo chamber about what to talk about today."

"The Trump media, you know, moves immediately from -- OK, well, never mind -- the [Michael Flynn] unmasking was, you know, found to be completely nonsensical to the latest alleged scandal and expects everybody to just follow suit," then-CNN president Jeff Zucker told his staff on Oct. 16. "So, I don't think that we should be repeating unsubstantiated smears just because the right-wing media suggests that we should."


Apparently such messaging was received by CNN stars like Jake Tapper, who dismissed the allegations against Hunter Biden as "too disgusting" to repeat on-air and that the "rightwing is going crazy." 

CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter suggested Hunter Biden scandal was "manufactured" and a product of pro-Trump "whataboutism." 

"For all we know, these emails were made up, or maybe some are real and some are fakes, we don't know," Stelter told his viewers. "But we do know that this is a classic example of the rightwing media machine."

Jake Tapper

CNN anchor Jake Tapper. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for WarnerMedia) ( (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for WarnerMedia))

MSNBC anchor Katy Tur mocked the Post's story, saying it "dropped like a bomb," but to "wither under scrutiny, not really dropping like a bomb." NBC News national security correspondent Ken Dilanian called it a "fishy story" despite acknowledging that various emails and images that came from the laptop looked "legitimate." MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle attacked those who were covering the Hunter Biden controversy, referring to it as a "so-called story" with "unverified claims."

"We are now four days away from the election and the truth is more important than ever," Ruhle told her viewers. "The truth is that we're in the middle of a pandemic. The truth is that millions of Americans are out of work. The truth is we have to listen to science. And in these final days, instead of debating crowd size or unverified claims or conspiracy theories, we should be talking about policy, values, and ideas."


Ahead of the final presidential debate, where Trump hammered his Democratic rival on his son's business dealings, NBC News correspondent Hallie Jackson offered a slanted preview of what was to come in the political showdown. 

"The President's also expected to bring up Hunter Biden and unverified emails of his business dealings, described by many intelligence experts as having hallmarks of a foreign disinformation campaign," Jackson reported. "The Biden campaign says they're ready for the attack, hoping to flip the script to argue the President's more obsessed with Biden's family than American families."

Jackson also made an effort to degrade Trump's debate guest, former Hunter Biden associate Tony Bobulinski, who claimed the former VP was directly involved with his son's business dealings.

"While President Trump is expected to bring a former business associate of Hunter Biden's, Joe Biden is expected to bring small business owners struggling in this pandemic," Jackson told NBC's Lester Holt.

Tony Bobulinski, a former associate of Hunter Biden, talks with reporters before the presidential debate, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Perhaps the most memorable interview exchanges from the 2020 election cycle took place on "60 Minutes" when veteran CBS News journalist Lesley Stahl laughed off Trump's claim that Biden was "in the midst of a scandal" in an interview that aired just days before the election.

"He's not," Stahl replied. 

"Of course he is, Lesley," Trump sternly doubled down. 

"No, c'mon," Stahl continued to reject the president's claim, before lecturing him, "This is '60 Minutes' and we can't put on things that we can't verify."


The editorial board of the New York Post had choice words for the Times' long-delayed corroboration of its reporting, writing "Forgive the profanity, but you have got to be s---ting us." 

"In the heat of the presidential race of 2020, the Times never missed a chance to cast doubt on the laptop, saying the information was 'purported' and quoting a letter from former Democratic officials who claimed — with no evidence — that it was Russian disinformation. As recently as September 2021, the Times called the laptop ‘unsubstantiated’ in a news story," the Post wrote Thursday. "Readers of the Times have discovered in March 2022 that Hunter Biden pursued business deals in Europe and Asia, and may have leveraged his father’s position as vice president to do it. Hunter also may not have properly registered with the government or declared all his income. All legitimate topics of discussion about a presidential candidate’s family, no?… Readers of The Post have known this since October 2020."