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About That Hunter Biden Story

Hunter Biden speaks during the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wis., August 20, 2020. (DNC/Reuters)

A few thoughts about that New York Post story on Hunter Biden.

(Disclosure: I write regularly for the Post’s opinion pages.)

First, there is a dodgy, even comedic element to the story, with the computer being abandoned at a repair shop before a copy of its contents came into the Post’s possession via Rudy Giuliani. The presence of Steve Bannon in the plot is a red flag, because Steve Bannon is a human red flag. But we know about the Coen Brothers aspects of the story because they are right there in the New York Post’s account. The Post is being straightforward and open about the provenance.

In that, the Post is taking a rather different approach from, say, the New York Times, which has pointedly refused to say how it got its hands on Donald Trump’s tax returns. I don’t much doubt that the Times has what it says it has, but it would be useful to know how it came to have it. Similarly, that Jeffrey Goldberg story that made a big splash in early September was big on anonymous sources; goodness knows I have my differences with Goldberg, but I don’t think he is the type to make stuff up. That being said, it matters who said these things, and “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day” is not terribly useful.

Anonymous sourcing is a useful and sometimes necessary reporting tool, but it requires a level of trust that much of our news media neither enjoy nor deserve to enjoy. The New York Times does a lot of great work, but should we be very liberal about giving it the benefit of the doubt when it comes to covering the Trump campaign? Of course not.

Second, if there were a sex tape featuring Donald Trump Jr. hitting a crack pipe, it would be up on a Jumbotron at Times Square. Yes, Republicans can be bores on the subject of media double standards, but, damn.

Third, the attempts by Facebook and Twitter to suppress this story are truly shameful. The corporate teams at those two social-media companies are setting themselves up for an old-fashioned Washington beatdown, and, bad as the response is likely to be policy-wise, it’ll be hard to say they don’t have it coming.

By all means, let’s tear into that Post story and see how it holds up. Are the emails fake? Are the photos and videos fake? What does the FBI think? If this is part of an elaborate disinformation campaign, then who is behind it — and how do we know?

Big questions. Simply trying to ignore the Post story or to cast aspersions on the Post’s reporting is not good enough. Not nearly.

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