The Hunter Biden laptop story has accentuated the disparity in media coverage from left and right outlets as much as any story since Joe Biden became president.
Some news outlets, especially ones that are rated as Lean Right or Right by AllSides, decried this saga as a ‘national tragedy’ of corruption by the Biden family (Tablet Mag, Lean Right), or ran opinion articles noting a ‘conspiracy of silence’ from the mainstream media on the story (New York Post Opinion, the outlet that initially broke the story — Right bias).
Conversely, many left-rated news sources initially framed the laptop as disinformation; some argued it was “not really a story” and “pure distraction” (NPR, Lean Left); most either ignored its contents or slowly caught up to conservatives' scrutiny of it.
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- In some cases, framed the laptop as disinformation before confirming it later
- Covered the laptop and the probe of Hunter Biden less overall
- In some cases, failed to explain initial decision to label the laptop story as misinformation
- Covered the laptop and scrutiny of Hunter Biden frequently
- Framed the laptop’s contents as evidence that Joe Biden lied or broke the law
- Accused left and center-rated news sources of pro-Biden bias
Let’s break down the media coverage and dominant opinions around the claim, and highlight the main facts, myths and disagreements.
Summary of the Claim
A laptop apparently abandoned by Hunter Biden at a Delaware repair shop in 2019 was given to former President Donald Trump’s legal counsel Rudy Giuliani by the shop’s owner. Giuliani then shopped the laptop around to several media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal (Center bias), before the New York Post (Lean Right) picked it up and published a story about its contents in October 2020, as the run-up to the 2020 presidential election was entering its final throes.
The original Post story suggested that Hunter arranged meetings between then-Vice President Joe Biden and foreign businessmen, based on purported evidence recovered from the laptop. Less than a week after its publication, dozens of former national security and intelligence officials signed a letter published by Politico (Lean Left bias) saying the laptop story “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
Some skepticism of the laptop was warranted. Giuliani was working for Biden’s campaign opponent, and the Post wasn’t immediately transparent about the laptop’s contents after publication.
But ultimately, no evidence of the disinformation claim ever emerged, and the laptop is now a main source of evidence in the federal investigation of Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.
As more facts from the laptop and investigation continue to come to light, it appears more and more possible that Hunter Biden may be charged with a crime due in part to revelations from the contents of the laptop. Further, some have speculated that his tax and lobbying dealings may implicate his father, President Joe Biden.
What the Left Said
Almost immediately, the Hunter Biden laptop story was deemed a potential Russian disinformation campaign by many major left-rated news outlets, such as Politico (Lean Left bias), Washington Post (Lean Left bias), New York Times (Lean Left bias) and NPR (Lean Left bias).
These sources often framed the laptop story in a questionable light, and in some cases went so far as to say it didn’t warrant their attention. NPR Managing Editor Kelly McBride stated at the time, “The reason you haven’t heard much on NPR about the Post story is that the assertions don’t amount to much.”
Then, Big Tech platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook — which conservatives often accuse of supporting left-wing narratives and censoring right-wing points of view — blocked the story from appearing on feeds over misinformation concerns.
But over time, as no evidence of a disinformation campaign emerged and more of the laptop’s contents trickled out, some left- and center-rated news sources began reporting on the laptop’s contents.
Jack Dorsey, a Twitter co-founder, has since joined the ranks of the Washington Post (Lean Left bias) and the New York Times (Lean Left bias) in admitting that the laptop is legitimate and the initial censorship of it was misguided. Some NPR journalists have since said that “maybe” the media was “too deferential to the Bidens” and have criticized newsroom leaders’ decisions to ignore the story.
Many left and center-rated sources now cover the laptop story and the probe into Hunter Biden with no skeptical framing of the laptop’s contents. In April, one Washington Post analysis said many emails on the laptop had been deemed as “likely legitimate,” but “an enormous amount of the material on the drive couldn’t be validated as legitimate, in part because of the game of telephone that the material had undergone by the time it reached us.”
What the Right Said
Immediately, many right-rated news sources jumped on the New York Post story and the potential evidence of Biden’s wrongdoing, with some implying without clear evidence that Joe Biden had committed crimes through his alleged involvement in Hunter’s business ventures. One writer at The Federalist (Right bias) called the laptop evidence “of deep familial corruption.”
Right-rated sources focused on the most distasteful acts found on the laptop, including commentary on allegations that Hunter was involved with prostitutes and drugs. One Daily Mail (Right Bias) article published videos and pictures of Hunter paying for and engaging in sexual acts with multiple women. These photos and videos were posted extensively by many right-rated outlets. Other right-rated outlets leaned into scrutiny of Hunter’s crack addiction and other drug issues.
Another major talking point on the right is the proximity of Joe Biden to some of the illicit activity found on the laptop. Right-rated outlets have been quick to seek out these connections. For example, the New York Post published an article about the “...Dozen times Joe Biden played a role in son Hunter’s business dealings.” Other articles from the right have pointed to specific emails on the laptop, especially those referring to Joe Biden as “The Big Guy.” According to Fox News (Right Bias), the emails on Hunter’s laptop establish that “The Big Guy,” who is related to a lot of Hunter’s business deals, is Joe Biden.
The White House has denied that President Biden had any involvement in Hunter’s deals, but sources across the political spectrum, especially on the right, refute this claim by citing meetings between Joe Biden and officials from China and Ukraine that were discussed in Hunter’s emails. Right-rated sources have also underscored the fact that Joe and Hunter also shared a bank account, and paint this as evidence that the two may have been in financial cahoots with one another on many of these deals.
Many right-rated voices question whether a story published by a left-rated media outlet would have been treated the same way as these allegations, and accuse the media of protecting Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign while framing Republicans as disinformation peddlers.
Is it True or False?
There is no evidence that Hunter Biden’s laptop was part of a Russian disinformation campaign, despite suspicions from some former security officials and initial reports from some left- and center-rated media outlets.
Now, as a federal investigation of Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings — based in part on the laptop’s contents — enters its final stages and a potential indictment sits on the horizon, it is notable that the laptop’s existence was once framed as potential Russian disinformation by major news sources.
The probe concerns Hunter Biden’s business dealings when he served as a consultant to foreign companies, particularly in Ukraine and China. Evidence from the laptop suggests that Hunter used his political connecitons in his business dealings, and potentially committed tax fraud and conducted money laundering schemes.
Especially since the story was published and censored in the immediate run-up to the 2020 presidential election, many on the right might argue that the left’s dismissal of it was part of coordinated efforts to sway the public and undermine President Donald Trump’s re-election bid by protecting Joe Biden. That, in their eyes, is the real example of disinformation in this case.
Ethan Horowitz is an AllSides News Assistant. He has a Lean Right bias.
This piece was reviewed and edited by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), Daily News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias), Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings Julie Mastrine (Lean Right).