In the latest issue of New York, contributing editor Andrew Rice and Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi delve into “What the Right Found on Hunter Biden’s Laptop,” how they got their hands on it, and the way the media has covered it. Rice and Nuzzi conducted dozens of interviews to tell the fullest possible story of how 217 gigabytes of data went from the possession of Hunter Biden into the public domain.
Rice pitched the story after reading in a New York Times article last March that the laptop’s contents had been at least partially authenticated. He thought the story had the makings of a “perfect old-school New York Mag political feature” — meaning, he says, it was both deadly serious in its implications and full of vivid (and sometimes enraging) detail on a human level. “Whether or not you believe Hunter Biden is a crooked character, everyone — even a boring Gen-X dad like me — can look at this situation and shudder in horror at being exposed in this way,” he says. Rice also noted the high stakes given that if the Republicans take control of Congress in the midterms, the “scandal machinery will crank to life.”
Rice called Nuzzi, who had reported on Donald Trump and many of the characters who seemed to be involved in the dissemination of the data, to get some advice. Instead, she told him she had a “crazy idea” — what if they did the story together? The two divvied up reporting and writing responsibilities.
“I wanted to interrogate the media groupthink and I wanted to understand how all of this had ever happened and what the blast radius of the disregard for one politicized person’s privacy really looked like,” says Nuzzi. “It felt to me that now was the time to establish as completely as possible what the story of this data really was, because without a clear narrative of the facts, falsehoods were solidifying into the only narrative anyone had to rely on.”
The cover image is a picture of Biden’s home-folder icon. It comes from a small external hard drive proffered up by one of the many sources in the story eager to share it with anyone who was curious.