May 15, 2023:
Clearing House -- "The
Hill" -- 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 easy pickings & Pulitzer-level stuff right here,”
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
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
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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
But the media then ignored what was on that “authentic laptop.” Hundreds of
emails detailed potentially criminal conduct and raw influence peddling in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.