In a desperate accusation over a Hunter Biden text, right-wing media falsely claim Joe Biden was vice president in July 2017

Update (6/23/23): In response to the publication of this article, Newsmax correspondent Alex Salvi confusingly tweeted that he “mistakenly referred to Joe Biden as former VP at the time of this text message sent by Hunter Biden, when he was actually out of office for 6 months.”

A number of right-wing media outlets are struggling to manufacture a scandal claiming Hunter Biden used his father’s political office for personal gain in the summer of 2017 — a time when then-private citizen Joe Biden did not hold any political office at all.

On Thursday, Republicans in Congress released transcripts from two IRS whistleblowers who claimed there had been recommendations for more serious tax charges against Hunter Biden, who earlier this week took a plea deal for two misdemeanor tax charges. Conservative media are particularly highlighting what the whistleblowers said about a WhatsApp message that Hunter Biden reportedly sent in July 2017, in which he allegedly told a Chinese business partner, “I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled.”

However, The New York Times reports that one of the whistleblowers, IRS agent Gary Shapley, also told Congress that there was evidence some of Hunter Biden’s claims of his father’s support in his business dealings were really “wishful thinking.” Shapley quoted Hunter Biden business associate Rob Walker as having told investigators: “I certainly never was thinking at any time the V.P. was a part of anything we were doing.” CNN also reported that the second, unnamed whistleblower spoke with Congress, “saying prosecutors questioned whether they could be sure Hunter Biden was telling the truth that his father was actually in the room in the messages.”

And on top of all this is the glaring fact that this happened after Joe Biden had seemingly retired from politics, having left the vice presidency at the age of 74 in January 2017. (Moreover, the Republican Party had total control in Washington at the time.)

But some right-wing media personalities are solving this logical problem in an interesting way: They are just falsely saying Joe Biden was vice president when the message was sent.

In a tweet posted Thursday night, Newsmax correspondent Alex Salvi claimed that Hunter was invoking “then VP Biden.” What makes this especially strange is that Salvi actually included the date of the reported text message, both in his own tweet setup and in a screen grab from Shapley’s complaint.

On the Friday morning edition of Newsmax’s Wake Up America, co-host Rob Finnerty said Hunter’s father was “Vice President Joe Biden at the time” while they were discussing this text message. (Newsmax’s onscreen image showed the text’s date.)

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Citation From the June 23, 2023, edition of Newsmax's Wake Up America

But on the Friday morning edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, an onscreen visual of the text message did not include the date at all, even though TV news productions typically show the date when reproducing a digital communication.

“And then there’s this text message from Hunter Biden on WhatsApp,” Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo said. “It shows him talking to a Chinese executive, threatening a Chinese businessman connected to the CCP to fulfill a commitment, or face retaliation from his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and everybody he knows.”

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Citation From the June 23, 2023, edition Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo

Fox Business’ next program, Varney & Co., did include the date in its onscreen reproduction of the text message, in contrast to the Bartiromo team’s clear omission. Varney further added: “But we should remind ourselves that we don't know whether Joe Biden was sitting next to Hunter when that message transpired.”

Later in the program however, Varney delivered a monologue in which he repeated the false claim. “‘I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father’ — that was then-Vice President Joe Biden,” Varney declared. “We don't know if Hunter was actually sitting next to his father, but that was clearly a threat — clearly using the office of vice president to intimidate.”

Of course, this message could not have been “using the office of vice president to intimidate,” because that office was held at the time by then-Vice President Mike Pence.

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Citation From the June 23, 2023, edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co

This narrative has the same fundamental weakness as other Republican- and media-led probes of Hunter Biden’s business dealings during this period: Joe Biden’s family members would have been able to peddle political influence on his name only if their business partners somehow knew in advance that he was going to come out of retirement years later and then pull off the rare feat of winning a presidential election against an incumbent. But now it seems right-wing media outlets are willing to just lie about the crucial fact of whether Biden was in office at the time.