When the Hunter Biden laptop story broke in the NY Post on October 14, widespread censorship raised the frightening specter of monopolistic information control. Without access to both sides of a story, it is difficult to evaluate the merits of either side.
The press can be useful but they can also be dangerous. Just ask anyone who has been affected by recent media-encouraged riots. The media demonized law enforcement, then used that as a way to stimulate violence against police while pretending not to notice the havoc they helped cause.
One possible goal of the riots was to cause political harm to President Trump in the months and weeks preceding the election. They weren’t successful. This was partly because voices in the media were not completely united.
The most powerful news sites, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and others, actively encouraged rioters and their destructive designs. At the same time, other sources understood the riots as the product of the paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa.
They called out these groups and published stories critical to understanding what was going on.
If you looked at any of the largest news sites in the last couple of weeks, you could be forgiven for not knowing that a major developing story involved Hunter Biden and a laptop. The story was reported first in the NY Post, but most of the later stories argued against the Post, if they reported it at all.
According to those who did publish articles, there was no story. Twitter banned reposts or sharing of the Post story and the Post’s account was frozen. Facebook limited access to the story to “slow the spread”.
However, a closer look shows that the two sides of the story were unevenly weighted in favor of the pro-Biden version.
A Nexis search on “Hunter Biden” AND “laptop”, filtered by English language only, newspapers, and between the dates 10/14/2020-10/26/2020 yielded 2,852 results. More than half of those stories were published by the top ten of hundreds of sources, many of which were foreign.
The top 25 American newspapers by circulation published a combined total of 99 stories. Many, like Newsday (Long Island), the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post didn’t publish any stories that met the search criteria.
|NEWSPAPER||RANKING||CIRCULATION||LOCATION||NUMBER of BIDEN ARTICLES|
|New York Times||1||2,237,601||New York||23|
|Long Island Newsday||2||512,118||Long Island||0|
|Los Angeles Times||3||507,395||Los Angeles||7|
|New York Post||4||424,721||New York||34|
|Dallas Morning News||5||410,587||Dallas||5|
|Daily News||8||299,538||New York||2|
|AM New York||9||291,991||New York||0|
|Star Tribune Minneapolis||10||285,129||Minneapolis||2|
|Tampa Bay Times||13||245,042||Tampa Bay||1|
|Honolulu Star Advertiser||14||243,376||Honolulu||2|
|The Record Woodland Park NJ||15||242,567||Woodland Park||0|
|Las Vegas Review Journal||17||232,372||Las Vegas||6|
|Fort Worth Star-Telegram||19||215,476||Fort Worth||1|
|The Denver Post||20||196,286||Denver||2|
|Metro New York||22||180,866||New York||0|
|El Vocero De Puerto Rico||23||179,761||0|
|San Francisco Chronicle||25||167,602||San Francisco||7|
*Data for circulation figures on this table from wallst.com
The New York Times originally showed 124 stories, but many of those were near-exact duplicates with minor editorial changes between editions. After filtering out duplicates, the numbers of unique articles found for the NY Times and others papers dropped to the figures in the table above.
The largest number of articles were published by the British Mail Online (94 stories) followed by the conservative American paper the Washington Examiner, with 67 stories, Fox News Network with 61, and the conservative Washington Times, which published 39 stories.
Overall, conservative news organizations were more likely to publish stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop than non-conservative organizations, and foreign news was more interested in the story than domestic non-conservative news.
The number of articles published is useful for determining who felt a story was warranted. It says nothing about why they felt a need to publish. A comparison of the NY Times’s 23 articles with the 32 articles published by the online Daily Caller provides some insight into this question.
I read all of the articles published by both organizations. I then took every claim or statement made by each and put them into a chronological narrative and removed redundancies. This narrative is the “story” for each paper. Notably, none of the stories published by the NY Times conflicted with each other, despite being written by 19 different authors. The same is true of the Daily Caller stories. And yet, the NY Times story and the Daily Caller story contradict each other.
Below is a condensed version of the NY Times story.
A damaged laptop alleged to belong to Hunter Biden was dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop in 2019.
Alarmed by what he found on the laptop, the owner of the store, John Paul Mac Isaac, called the FBI and gave it to them. Before handing it over, he made four copies of the hard drive for himself. The FBI confirmed receiving the laptop and hard drive.
Isaac was surprised that he hadn’t heard anything about the laptop after waiting several months, so he gave copies to Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, who gave it to Giuliani, who passed it on to the NY Post. Disgraced Trump-ally Steve Bannon was at some point involved in this process.
Based on some of the as-yet unverified documents found on the hard drive, the Post published their October 14 story about Hunter Biden.
Every person connected to the laptop, from Isaac, who is legally blind, to Rudy Giuliani, Robert Costello, Steve Bannon, NY Post reporter Emma-Jo Morris, and the NY Post itself, are all Trump-supporting conservatives, biased, and cannot be trusted.
Post reporter Bruce Golding had his name removed from the story due to doubts about the provenance and authenticity of the hard drive. For the same reason, Twitter and Facebook banned the Post story. It has not been proven that Hunter Biden owned the laptop or that the emails and documents it contains are authentic and unaltered.
National security advisor Robert C. O’Brien warned Trump about Russian disinformation in December. Biden says the laptop story is Russian disinformation. Warnings about Russian disinformation centered on the concern that hacked and possibly altered documents would be distributed to hurt Biden’s candidacy. Twitter banned the story on the basis that it prohibited the dissemination of hacked materials on its site.
One of the chief claims in the Post story is that Biden met with Ukrainian businessman Vadim Pozharskyi. Biden’s official schedule showed no meeting with Pozharskyi, so his campaign claims it did not happen, though it is “technically possible“.
The Times story contains plenty of character assassination and accusations of guilt by association. It does not, however, invest itself too deeply in researching the story. It expects readers to doubt that the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden, that the emails belonged to Hunter Biden, and that the emails and other documents are unaltered or authentic. The basis for doubting these things is not based on evidence but on distrust of conservatives. It is a bit like describing every conservative as a self-interested liar based on their status as conservatives. This is similar to another false liberal claim, that all white people are racists.
The Daily Caller’s reporting does not engage in character assassination. Instead, it makes an effort to understand every element of the allegations involved.
The Daily Caller story:
The NY Times and the Daily Caller agree that:
Shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac claims Hunter Biden dropped off a laptop computer in April 2019 but did not retrieve it.
From there, the accounts diverge. The Times reports that Hunter’s ownership of the laptop is in doubt, pointing out that Isaac is legally blind and could not recognize Biden. They do not mention the quote for repairs signed by Hunter Biden and given to Isaac. According to the Caller, Biden lawyer, Georges Mesires has not responded to queries about the authenticity of Biden’s signature on the quote.
The Caller describes some documents found on the Biden laptop as “lewd”. Others suggest that Hunter Biden arranged a business meeting between Joe Biden and a Burisma executive. Other emails and texts suggest Joe Biden stood to gain financially from deals in China.
The Times reports that there is nothing to connect the laptop to Hunter Biden (ignoring the receipt and photos for now) but ignore a September senate report revealing suspicious transactions in Hunter Biden’s accounts. Those transactions were consistent with documents found on the laptop. That could be viewed as independent corroboration.
Isaac contacted Sen. Ron Johnson on September 24 to inquire about FBI progress in their laptop investigation. Johnson’s staff met with Isaac on October 5. After this, Johnson wrote an official letter to FBI director Christopher Wray to follow up on Isaac’s request. The FBI did not confirm or deny Johnson’s questions. These details, present in the Caller’s reporting, absent in the Times, demonstrate that Isaac tried to go through official channels and that he started the process long before the current election cycle.
Isaac then contacted Costello and gave him a copy of the hard drive. This was sent to Giuliani who verified some of its contents by cross-referencing it with information from multiple confidential informants.
Although Fox News did eventually run at least 61 stories about the laptop, they initially rejected it because they wanted better authentication of the laptop’s contents and provenance. Instead of mentioning this, the NY Times chose to portray Fox as recklessly publishing stories on the subject without any concern for the validity of the underlying facts.
In an interview with the Daily Caller, Giuliani was asked if he would give the hard drive to the Caller so that they could try to verify its contents. Giuliani refused, saying that he wanted to let the material out slowly, for strategic reasons. In their reporting on this incident, the Caller pointed out that if Giuliani would hand over the metadata for just one email, it could be conclusively authenticated. The implication was that Giuliani was hiding something. This is not the kind of reporting one would expect from a biased source*.
*UPDATE: This has since been confirmed by Robert Graham of Errata Security.
One of the published emails show that Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi sent Hunter Biden a list of deliverables. One of these was a request for “US officials” to support closing down investigations of Burisma’s owner. This happened later, thanks to efforts from Joe Biden.
The Times and the Caller reported that Biden and his campaign have alleged that the laptop story is Russian disinformation. A detail missing from the Times reporting but present in the Caller is Johnson’s statement that if the documents are foreign disinformation, Johnson expects a defensive briefing from FBI. He did not receive one.
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe announced last week that there is no evidence to suggest the laptop is part of a Russian disinformation campaign. The Times alluded to this by saying the allegation of Russian disinformation isn’t proven, but without details presented elsewhere indicating the claim has no evidence to support it. That allows them to hedge, leaving open the possibility that the story is Russian disinformation, though unproven for now.
The Times claims there is no evidence to support claims that the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden or that the contents are authentic. The Caller presents a witness that directly contradicts the Times. Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of Hunter Biden and CEO of their shared venture, SinoHawk, independently confirmed the authenticity of some of the emails.
Bobulinski also confirmed that Hunter frequently consulted Joe Biden on business deals, that Joe Biden is “The Big Guy” mentioned in emails from the laptop, that Joe Biden’s connection to the venture could never be put on paper, Hunter aggressively leveraged the family name for profit, Joe Biden’s connection to Hunter was a key selling point to Chinese investors, and that Bobulinski would (and did) provide a trove of documents that could independently corroborate some of the contents of the laptop.
Another independent confirmation comes from the Federalist, who obtained text messages allegedly detailing arrangements for a meeting at Beverly Hilton in LA between Hunter and Joe Biden and reps from CEFC, a Chinese energy company. On that day, Joe Biden and his brother Jim were at Hilton.
Sen. Johnson found an email from the laptop that was sent to Buzzfeed from a reporter requesting guidance about the “glaring” conflict of interest inherent to Hunter’s appointment to the Burisma board. Johnson sent queries to the reporter and Buzzfeed for confirmation that the emails are genuine. They hadn’t responded at the time the article was written.
There is more to the Caller’s reporting than this. Apparently they found the subject worth investigating in some detail, unlike the Times. However, this is enough for the purpose of comparing their coverage to the Times.
Overall, what the Times has done amounts to saying, “you can’t trust conservatives” so there is no need to reflect on the specific questions raised by the laptop. After all, if they can’t be trusted, the laptop can’t be trusted, so there is nothing to look at or report on. Therefore, the story should be suppressed, ignored, or censored. If they had taken the same attitude to the Steele Dossier, they wouldn’t have a flashy but unearned Pulitzer on their shelves. After all, the Pulitzer was not designed to reward fraudulent reporting, such as the invented details of the Russia Hoax published by the Times.
The Caller did not engage in character assassination. They did not demean any of the people involved or insinuate anything they were unwilling to state directly. They reported the facts, including those that may have cast doubts on the story, notably, Giuliani’s refusal to hand over the hard drive.
Other news outlets, particularly the largest newspapers in America, were less encouraging. The LA Times, Houston Chronicle, Star Tribune Minneapolis, and many others, either ignored the story completely by not writing about it at all, or they did, encouraged disbelief in the laptop-related allegations by insinuating the possibility of conservative bias. This is not a great deal different from the often false assertion made by some radicals in our society that if a police officer shoots a black suspect, it is because he is racist.
Although conservative outlets published more stories about Biden’s laptop, their reach is dwarfed by that of media that ignored the story. The Times published more than any other liberal paper, but their stories were all designed to undermine the validity of the allegations involved.
For people who wanted to learn more about the story, they could perform an Internet search. However, if they don’t know about the story to begin with because it didn’t appear in their newspaper, on TV news, or was suppressed on Twitter and Facebook, they wouldn’t have any reason to search for it. If they did, chances are they would find pro-Biden articles that discount the validity of allegations made in the Post story.
For liberal Americans, they were unlikely to encounter the story in any of the sources they normally go to for news. This was because most published no stories on the subject. Those that did, provided no meaningful details, downplayed its importance, and explained it away as conservative bias. They couldn’t find it on Twitter, from which the story was banned, and would have difficulty locating it on Facebook, who limited access.
As the Times own Ben Smith said, of Trump’s laptop-related comments during the final debate with Biden,
“if you’d been watching the debate, but hadn’t been obsessively watching Fox News or reading Breitbart, you would have had no idea what Mr. Trump was talking about.” “the old gatekeepers, like The Journal, can still control the agenda.”
And that is why for me, I have been getting a lot of my news lately from Law Enforcement Today. It isn’t the only good source of news out there but it is one of the few that can be relied upon to pay attention to issues that matter to me and many other Americans. If only the mainstream media would do the same thing, we could worry less about encroachments on our freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Liberals don’t have the same freedom. They have been locked in a maze by their favored media outlets, who keep them there in a state of ignorance. They aren’t shown anything that contradicts liberal messaging, and thus have no reason to suspect that the media they access has been manipulated to present them with a false portrait of the world around them.
The press can be a powerful force for good, but only if it is good to begin with.
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