CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge on Wednesday amplified a politically motivated report by Senate Republicans aiming to dredge up allegations against Hunter Biden’s business involvement in Ukraine. And Herridge, a former Fox News correspondent, has even further embellished the report through a key omission of wording.
This story had become the center of President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure that country into announcing an investigation against the Biden family in 2019 — and thus to damage his likely election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden — which led to Trump’s impeachment.
One of the co-authors behind this new report, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), openly declared last month that it “would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection,” and this month added, “I just don’t think Joe Biden ever should have run for president.”
Politico notes that the report “repackages old claims” and “largely relies on previously known information.” The Washington Post says the report “failed to demonstrate that [Hunter Biden’s position] changed the administration’s policy toward Ukraine.” CNN is also treating the report’s allegations rather skeptically.
Herridge seems to be alone among current mainstream news personalities in giving this report any credence at all. But it gets even worse when she exaggerates its misleading findings:
Herridge’s phrasing around this supposed interference in fact gives a further spin to the Johnson report, which only alleges on the second page of its executive summary that Hunter Biden’s involvement “did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine.” (Emphasis added.) It is 10 pages later that the report admits, “The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.” In other words: They’ve got nothing.
But by saying that Hunter Biden’s role had interfered simply “did interfere” with the “execution” of U.S. policy, Herridge gives the impression of a substantive effect on Obama-era policy in Ukraine, thus helping to further the Republicans’ baseless attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee.
The Post’s Greg Sargent also notes that the report leans heavily on past concerns by State Department official George Kent, who had warned internally that Hunter Biden’s activities presented an appearance of a conflict of interest — but Kent had also testified last year that there was no evidence for any allegations of corruption against Joe Biden.
Indeed, the report itself even includes Kent’s statement that Hunter Biden’s presence on the board of a company had no effect on decisions by American officials, though Kent had remained concerned about appearances.
Update (9/24/20): On Wednesday, Johnson appeared on the podcast of right-wing columnist John Solomon, one of the major participants in a plot by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to mislead the public on the Ukraine scandal and to defame officials such as then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. During his interview, Johnson mentioned Herridge’s name in a list comprising major right-wing misinformers that he said he hoped would “start making a lot of these connections.”
“Read the report. There's 87 pages, it's not that long, but there's a lot of good detail in there,” said Johnson, “and the kind of details that I'm hoping people like you and Peter Schweizer and Kim Strassel and Catherine Herridge and Sharyl Attkisson and Mollie Hemingway, I'm hoping — Andrew McCarthy — I'm hoping people who've been investigating this for quite some time now have a little bit more information to dig a little bit deeper and start making a lot of these connections.”
Update (9/25/20): At a Trump campaign event on Friday, the president praised Catherine Herridge for her recent reporting.
“It’s a big story, it’s a tremendous story. And on the internet, it’s the biggest thing that's taken over the internet. Nobody can even believe it,” Trump concluded. “It would be great if the lame-stream media would do something about it. But do you know, but they tend not to. But I — again, I want to, I want to commend Catherine Herridge of CBS, she did an incredible piece on this, and she — can’t believe it.”