Below is my column in The Hill on the continued media blackout on evidence of influence peddling and corrupt practices by the Biden family. The coverage of the recent disclosure of dozens of LLCs and bank accounts used to funnel up to $10 million to Biden family members captured the growing concerns over a de facto state media in the United States. Under the current approach to journalism, it is the New York Times that receives a Pulitzer for a now debunked Russian collusion story rather than the New York Post for a now proven Hunter Biden laptop story.
Here is the column:
This week, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) tried to do the impossible. After he and his colleagues presented a labyrinth of LLC shell companies and accounts used to funnel as much as $10 million to Biden family members, Donalds tried to induce the press to show some interest in the massive corruption scandal. “For those in the press, this is easy pickings & Pulitzer-level stuff right here,” he pleaded.
The response was virtually immediate. Despite showing nine Biden family members allegedly receiving funds from corrupt figures in Romania, China and other countries, The New Republic quickly ran a story headlined “Republicans Finally Admit They Have No Incriminating Evidence on Joe Biden.”
For many of us, it was otherworldly. A decade ago, when then-Vice President Joe Biden was denouncing corruption in Romania and Ukraine and promising action by the United States, massive payments were flowing to his son Hunter Biden and a variety of family members, including Biden grandchildren.
Last year, I wrote a column about how the media were preparing a difficult “scandal implosion” to protect the Bidens and themselves from the backlash from disclosures of this influence peddling operation.
The brilliance of the Biden team was that it invested the media in this scandal at the outset by burying the laptop story as “Russian disinformation” before the election. That was, of course, false, but it took two years for most major media outlets to admit that the laptop was authentic.
But the media then ignored what was on that “authentic laptop.” Hundreds of emails detailed potentially criminal conduct and raw influence peddling in foreign countries.
When media outlets such as the New York Post confirmed the emails, the media then insisted that there was no corroboration of the influence peddling payments and no clear proof of criminal conduct. It entirely ignored the obvious corruption itself.
Now that the House has released corroboration in actual money transfers linking many in the Biden family, the media is insisting that this is no scandal because there is no direct proof of payments to Joe Biden.
Putting aside that this is only the fourth month of an investigation, the media’s demand of a direct payment to President Biden is laughably absurd. The payments were going to his family, but he was the object of the influence peddling.
The House has shown millions of dollars going to at least nine Bidens like dividends from a family business. As a long-time critic of influence peddling among both Republicans and Democrats, I have never seen the equal of the Bidens.
The whole purpose of influence peddling is to use family members as shields for corrupt officials. Instead of making a direct payment to a politician, which could be seen as a bribe, you can give millions to his or her spouse or children.
Moreover, these emails include references to Joe Biden getting a 10 percent cut of one Chinese deal. It also shows Biden associates warning not to use Joe Biden’s name but to employ code names like “the Big Guy.” At the same time, the president and the first lady are referenced as benefiting from offices and receiving payments from Hunter.
Indeed, Hunter complains that his father is taking half of everything that he is raking in.
None of that matters. The New York Times ran a piece headlined, “House Republican Report Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by President Biden.” That is putting aside evidence against all the family members around Joe Biden. It also ignored that other evidence clearly shows Biden lied about his family not receiving Chinese funds or that he never had any knowledge of his son’s business dealings.
The fact is that the Times may indeed be trying for another Pulitzer Prize. The newspaper previously won a Pulitzer for the now debunked Russian collusion story. It was later revealed that this story was based on a dossier funded by the Clinton campaign and placed in the media by Clinton officials. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward warned the co-winner The Washington Post that the story was unreliable but was ignored. The Pulitzer Committee refused to withdraw the award.
What Donalds fails to appreciate is that this is sometimes how Pulitzers are made. Roughly 100 years ago, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty won the Pulitzer for his coverage of the Soviet Union despite serving as an apologist for Joe Stalin. Duranty refused to report on actual conditions from mass killing to starvation in the “worker’s paradise.”
Thus, when the Soviets were starving to death as many as 10 million Ukrainians, the Times ran a Duranty story with the headline “Russians Hungry but Not Starving.” He not only spinned Stalin labor camps that killed millions but also attacked reporters who sought to uncover the truth.
Years later, Ukraine and various groups demanded that Duranty’s prize be rescinded, but the Committee insisted that there was no “clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception.”
What is most impressive about this week is that all but a few outlets seem to be angling for the next Duranty Pulitzer.
In discussing modern Russian propaganda, researchers at the Rand Corporation described it as having “two distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”
Today we are seeing a much more dangerous phenomenon. The coverage this week has all the markings of a state media. The consistent spin. The almost universal lack of details. The absurd distinctions.
It is the blindside of our First Amendment, which addresses the classic use of state authority to coerce and control media. It does not address a circumstance in which most of the media will maintain an official line by consent rather than coercion.
The media simply fails to see the story. Of course, it can always look to the president for enlightenment. Just before his son received a massive transfer of money from one of the most corrupt figures in Romania, Biden explained to that country why corruption must remain everyone’s focus. “Corruption is a cancer, a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy,” he said. “Corruption is just another form of tyranny.”
It is just a shame that no one wants to cover it.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.