The New York Post’s own journalists say they are skeptical of the paper’s stories about Hunter Biden, including the man who wrote most of the “smoking gun” story and would not put his name on it, four newsroom sources told Intelligencer.
On Wednesday morning, the Post dropped what it clearly hoped would be a bombshell — an exclusive report based on copies of emails and photos that had supposedly belonged to Hunter, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The Post said the files were recovered from a computer that belonged to Hunter and was dropped off at a computer-repair shop near the Biden family’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, last spring. The shop’s owner, a Trump supporter, gave the files to the president’s consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, who finally delivered them to the Post. The Post has not said publicly whether it authenticated the files.
“I think it was very flimsy,” one Post reporter told Intelligencer.
Another journalist at the paper was even more blunt.
“It’s not something that meets my journalistic standards,” they said, adding that the piece “should not have been published.”
Indeed, reporter Bruce Golding wrote most of the first several stories and refused to put his name on them, according to one source. Golding did not respond to a request for comment. The New York Times first reported Golding’s reluctance on Sunday evening. Golding is a fixture at the paper, sources told Intelligencer, a master of the “rewrite” who can synthesize disparate reporters’ notes into splashy front-page stories written in the tabloid’s distinctive style. His involvement in the Hunter Biden story is not surprising, but his lack of a byline or reporting credit is highly unusual, according to current and former Post journalists. The Hunter Biden stories are credited to deputy politics editor Emma-Jo Morris and reporter Gabrielle Fonrouge.
Unlike Golding, Morris has been happy to take credit for the story on Twitter. She’s a relatively recent arrival to the Post, having joined in March from Fox News, where she previously worked as a producer and segment booker. (Fonrouge has worked for the Post since 2014.) On her social-media accounts, she appears friendly with Trump-world figures like Bannon and Giuliani, who said he shopped the hard drive to the Post.
Some Post reporters also suspected the involvement of Col Allan, a veteran of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire who has long guided the Post’s political reporting and is seen by Post insiders as Murdoch’s representative in the newsroom. Allan stepped down as editor-in-chief of the Post in 2016 but returned in a vague advisory role early last year. Allan is said to still play a role in editorial decision-making, particularly when it comes to big politics stories like the Hunter Biden series. The Times reported that Allan urged top editors to move quickly on the story when the files were given to the Post last Sunday by Giuliani.
Giuliani told the Times he sent the purported Biden files to the Post because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.”
Post reporters who spoke to Intelligencer were not surprised then that the paper published the story, even if they wish that it hadn’t.
“That the Post would go pro-Trump before the election and in the months leading up to it was kind of something I’ve been bracing for and that a lot of the other not-right-wing Post reporters have been bracing for,” the first Post reporter told Intelligencer. “So in a way, it’s not really surprising.”
Since Wednesday, the Post has published more than 50 separate stories and columns tagged “Hunter Biden.”
The paper’s supposed scoop focuses on purported emails that Hunter had exchanged with business associates in Ukraine and China. The emails help to bolster a narrative that Giuliani and other Trump allies have been pushing for years — that Hunter had traded on his famous father’s name to make lucrative overseas business deals. What the Post called a “smoking-gun email” merely showed a Ukrainian executive thanking Hunter for introducing him to his father. (The Biden campaign has said that the meeting did not appear on the vice-president’s official schedule, suggesting that it was either a perfunctory meet-and-greet or that it never occurred.) The campaign has otherwise not commented on the Post story, such as denying whether the files are authentic — a point the Post has used in its defense.
The Post has also indulged in more traditional tabloid fare, publishing what it said were Hunter’s personal photos and messages taken from the drive. These included a photo of Hunter shirtless, a photo of Hunter next to a crack pipe (hardly a scoop given that Hunter has publicly discussed his struggles with drug addiction), a note that Hunter wrote to himself on the anniversary of his brother’s death, and a text-message conversation between Hunter and his father in which the former vice-president insisted that he loved his son unconditionally.
The paper also teased the existence of sexually explicit content on the hard drive, including a “raunchy, 12-minute video that appears to show Hunter, who’s admitted struggling with addiction problems, smoking crack while engaged in a sex act with an unidentified woman.” That the Post has so far declined to publish that video suggests that there are at least some ethical lines it is unwilling to cross (or at least that its legal team has advised it not to cross).
This is familiar territory for the Post, which has long mined Hunter’s rocky personal life for content. Back in 2017, the Post’s gossip column “Page Six” broke the news of Hunter’s affair with his late brother’s widow, Hallie. Earlier this year, the paper focused on Hunter’s relationship with a former stripper who sued him for child support.
Beyond the articles about Biden’s purported emails, the Post has published dozens of articles about the fallout from its scoop, with a particular focus on Facebook and Twitter’s attempts to “censor” the paper by limiting or blocking access to the Post article. Facebook said that it would limit the article’s presence in user’s news feeds, while Twitter went much further and locked the Post out of its own Twitter account.
The social-media giants later reversed their stances on the story, but by then they had already turned the Post into a martyr on the right. Conservative politicians have rallied to the paper’s defense. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have accused Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey of “election interference” and promised to subpoena him to testify before Congress. The Post, meanwhile, has covered all of these developments in excruciating detail.
The internal critics of the Hunter Biden stories have been torn between calling out Twitter’s obvious overreach and defending the paper’s murky reporting. It’s a dilemma familiar to the many Posties who take pride in their work covering the city even as they wince at the paper’s often sycophantic coverage of Trump.
“It just makes you cringe and roll your eyes, and it’s hard to stomach, but at the same time we kind of know that you’re signing up for stuff like that,” one Post reporter said. “It’s upsetting. It’s disappointing. It sucks to, like, work for, like, a propaganda outlet.”