The Media Celebrates a Year of Free From Political Scandal and Press Scrutiny – JONATHAN TURLEY


With the conclusion of the first year of the Biden Administration, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain sought to end on a high, or at least higher, note by retweeting a column saying that 2021 was not “all bad.” It was like bragging that a first date told you that the evening could have been worse. However, what really stood out in the column by Albert Hunt was the key rationale: the first year was “scandal free.” Calling 2021 “scandal free” is not merely an example of blinkered commentary, it is an  exercise of willful blindness. This is why magicians often make audience members part of the illusion. Houdini did not actually make his 10,000 pound elephant Jennie disappear. It was there the whole time but the audience did not want to see it. That’s the trick.

At his inauguration, President Biden promised the return of good government and newspapers like the Washington Post heralded the end to Trump’s “­scandal-plagued single term.” Now, at the end of the first year, readers are being asked to “think back four years ago: The Trump administration looked more like ‘The Godfather’ — without the skill.”

There is ample reason for the White House and many in the media to celebrate the lack of scandals in the Biden Administration because it was a collective effort.

Of course, four years ago, the media was all-in on the Russian collusion allegations. The media was doing non-stop coverage of the Steele dossier with little scrutiny or effort to uncover those who funded it. The dossier was later discredited and American intelligence warned that Russian intelligence may have used it to plant disinformation. While the Clinton campaign repeatedly denied funding the dossier, it was revealed (after the election) that not only did the Clinton campaign fund and push the dossier but also allegedly lied to Congress, the media, and the FBI. Clinton campaign chair John Podesta allegedly denied such funding to congressional staff. According to reports, sitting next to him was Clinton attorney Marc Elias (who was later found to have funded the dossier through the Clinton campaign’s legal account).

The only thing more impressive than the relentless coverage of Trump scandals in 2017 was the relentless avoidance of Biden scandals in 2020.  The media did give passing coverage to the host of Biden false claims and stories that range from saying that he was “arrested trying to see Nelson Mandela” to his evolving Amtrak claims to reinventing his positions on foreign wars like Afghanistan. There were also federal violations by Biden officials and allegations of improper presidential influence on pending investigations. However, when it came to scandals that could implicate the President in more serious misconduct (or contradict his past denials), the media was thoroughly uninterested.

Consider just three of the Voldemort scandals of 2020, or those scandals which must not be named by the media:

The Hunter Biden Laptop:

The successful effort to bury the Hunter Biden story is the single greatest political achievement in modern politics, but it took a concerted effort by reporters and columnists in Washington. What was most impressive is that the Biden campaign and family never denied that the laptop was authentic. The laptop details potential criminal acts by Hunter Biden from extensive drug use to hiring prostitutes to alleged financial and tax violations. It also included his admission that prior files were likely in the hands of foreign intelligence to use for blackmailing him and his father. There is also the “red flag” gun controversy involving Hunter Biden. Not only did social media companies blackout references to the laptop, but the media has steadfastly continued to refuse to pursue these potential criminal acts. The laptop was seized by the FBI in an ongoing federal investigation into possible tax and financial wrongdoing.

Biden Family Influence Peddling:

Influence peddling has long been associated with the Biden family but only sparingly reported, even though both President Biden’s brothers Frank and James are accused of openly hawking their ties to him.  Hunter’s laptop added evidence of hundreds of emails on transactions by Hunter Biden, his uncle James Biden, and Joe Biden. The emails magnify earlier allegations that the Biden family engaged in open influence peddling when Joe Biden was Vice President with an assortment of foreign figures and countries. Some of those dealings continued into the Biden presidency. Hunter Biden admits that he was a hopeless drug addict well into his father’s presidential campaign. However, these foreign figures continued to give Hunter millions and Hunter openly assisted in their meetings with his father and linking up with Administration officials. One of the key figures in these dealings has claimed that he met personally with Joe Biden to discuss the deals.

These meetings and dinners directly contradict denials from President Biden, who is referred to extensively in emails concerning payments and meetings as “the Big Guy,” “Celtic,” and other names. President Biden appears to have had bills paid from out of these accounts and his shared card may have been used in some of the most dubious transactions. Some dealings have direct national security implications for the United States. Despite the ongoing federal investigation, there has been no call for a Special Counsel even though President Biden is referenced and potentially implicated in some of these transactions. Nevertheless, Hunter continues to rack in the dough by other means, including art deals that have been denounced as ethically corrupt.

The Ashley Biden Diary:

The latest scandal involves the other first child, Ashley Biden.  Like her brother Hunter, Ashley has struggled with addiction and left her diary with some clothes in a house in Delray, Florida.  The diary was later sent to Project Veritas, a conservative publication which decided not to run the information. The contents of the diary, however, have been reported on other sites, including allegations against her father involving “inappropriate” contacts. As with the Hunter Biden laptop, the Biden family has not denied the authenticity of the diary or the underlying passages. It also did not sue the other conservative sites for defamation in publishing what they alleged to be passages from the diary. Instead, the family lawyers called upon the Justice Department to get involved the case of a missing diary. The Justice Department’s response was so overwhelming you would have thought that they were investigating the snatching of Lindbergh’s baby rather than Ashley’s diary.  It conducted raids on journalists and the seizure of confidential material around the country.

The media was not interested in the use of the FBI to launch a national investigation into the missing diary. Indeed, the raiding of the home of a conservative publisher was barely noted even though the New York Times could also have been raided on the same grounds as Project Veritas. The Times acquired confidential and presumably stolen legal material from Project Veritas and, unlike Project Veritas, published the presumably stolen information. However, the Biden Justice Department was only interested in cracking down on the acquisition or coverage of the Ashley Biden diary.

In reviewing these scandals, ask yourself what the media would have done with a diary from Ivanka Trump with these allegations or foreign influence peddling by the Trump children. You do not have to wonder. They covered every possible foreign influence source from hotel rentals to loans in exhaustive details, including Trump children “influence peddling.” I thought that interest and coverage was warranted. However, when hundreds of emails and transactions showed raw influence peddling by the Biden family (including the involvement of President Biden), neither the media nor the members of Congress could be bothered. There would be no “­scandal-plagued single term” for President Biden.

For the media (and Ron Klain) to pronounce the Biden Administration “scandal free” is akin to the NFL once denying that traumatic brain injury was rampant in football. If there is no coverage, there is no scandal. That is certainly an accomplishment worth noting, but hardly worth celebrating.



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