Nearly one year after the Hunter Biden laptop story sparked a political firestorm, Politico confirmed some of the material first reported by the New York Post in the final weeks of the presidential election.
Politico Playbook published reporting from correspondent Ben Schreckinger's new book "The Bidens," which delved into the emails that surfaced in the explosive reporting that was ultimately suppressed by Big Tech.
"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 Playbook wrote. "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."
This is a drastic shift in tone from Politico, which ran the October 2020 headline "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say."
The report, 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 its 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.
The unsubstantiated claims from the former intel officials were elevated throughout the media including CNN, MSNBC, and The Huffington Post.
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."
That same day, The New York Times ran a report sounding the alarm about "Russian disinformation," claiming that President Donald 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 reported at the time.
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 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."
Unlike NPR, CNN wasn't nearly as transparent with its efforts to spike the Hunter Biden story. Last week, 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," 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 star anchor Jake Tapper, who dismissed the allegations against Hunter Biden as "too disgusting" to repeat on-air and that the "rightwing is going crazy."
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer hyped the baseless "Russian disinformation" speculation on the "serious questions" of whether Russia was "using" Giuliani to "interfere" in the election.
"There are fears that what Giuliani is now pushing here in the United States could actually be part of Russia's latest and very massive disinformation campaign in the U.S. presidential election," Blitzer said.
A tense exchange took place on "60 Minutes," when veteran 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."
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."
"We have no idea, and neither does the New York Post, whether any of it was doctored or forged or faked. And that’s why the mainstream news media has declined to really touch the story because it just lacks credibility," Dilanian told Tur. "We now know that Russian disinformation ... is as dangerous to our democracy as anything exposed in these emails."
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.
Following the debate, CBS political analyst John Dickerson pointed out that Biden "has an ally in the news cycle," suggesting that media's coverage of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will bury the scandal, which would benefit the former VP.
"If President Trump tries to shift the turf onto the Biden family for the purposes of muddying Joe Biden, the news cycle keeps returning to the central piece of this campaign, which is the coronavirus and the president's response to it and the country has a very negative view on that," Dickerson explained to "CBS This Morning" cohost Anthony Mason. "And as these numbers continue, it keeps voters focused on that very bad issue for the president."
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."
Wajahat Ali, then a columnist for The New York Times who has since joined The Daily Beast, celebrated Twitter and Facebook's censorship of the Hunter Biden story, writing, "Good. Russian disinformation meant to harm our democracy shouldn't be given mainstream platforms."
NBC News correspondent Heidi Przybyla warned outlets "Wikileaks were ‘hacked materials’ & part of a Russian disinformation campaign. It became egg on every media that ran breathlessly with it."
Washington Post columnist Max Boot declared that the New York Post story "is false--and quite possibly part of a Russian disinformation campaign."
CNN's leftwing media guru Brian Stelter indicated the Hunter Biden scandal was "manufactured" and was the 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."
Several critics, including journalist Glenn Greenwald and Grabien founder and news editor Tom Elliott, blasted the various media outlets and journalists for their reckless coverage of the Hunter Biden scandal.
"The pre-election joint censorship campaign by the media, Big Tech & CIA was always a gigantic story. The CIA spun an outright lie about these docs that helped these platforms censor the docs while *journalists* cheered that," Greenwald tweeted on Tuesday. "Again, however much you despise these media outlets, it's not enough."
"It wasn’t only Twitter & Facebook that were trying to throw the election through their manipulation of information. Dozens of blue check progressives circulated fake news that the Hunter story was 'disinformation.' These people should be shamed," Elliott wrote.