House Republicans appear poised to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who called an impeachment inquiry a “natural step forward” during a Fox News appearance late last month, is reportedly strategizing with other top Republicans about how to open one by the end of September, which would likely focus on the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter during the Obama administration.
House congressional probes of the subject have generated plenty of content for right-wing outlets. But even members of the GOP caucus acknowledge it has uncovered little to no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden. As one House Republican (anonymously) put it: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden got money, or that Joe Biden, you know, agreed to do something so that Hunter could get money. There’s just no evidence of that. And they can’t impeach without that evidence. And I don’t I don’t think the evidence exists.” Absent that proof, political commentators rightfully warn, moving forward with impeachment “would carry considerable risk for the Republican Party.”
McCarthy’s folly is a sign of the hammerlock Fox News has on the Republican Party. The right-wing propaganda network’s stars have long demanded a Biden impeachment as both retaliation and political cover for Donald Trump’s various impeachments and criminal indictments. Since those Fox commentators wield more power within the GOP than most of its putative leaders do, a Biden impeachment inquiry has seemed inevitable, with the only question being what they’d end up backfilling as its rationale. And somehow, they’ve settled on taking a shot with the Hunter Biden minutiae they’ve all spent years feverishly rehashing (but that no one can parse without a PhD in Sean Hannity Studies).
Fox’s stars began calling for Biden’s impeachment before he was elected — or even nominated. Nearly four years ago, as House Judiciary Committee Democrats prepared to approve articles of impeachment against then-President Donald Trump over his corrupt abuse of power in attempting to coerce the Ukrainian government into opening a criminal investigation into Joe Biden, Fox host Mark Levin demanded that the GOP prepare to retaliate in kind.
“The next Democrat president of the United States must be impeached!” Levin bellowed during a heated December 12, 2019, appearance. “Not to get even, not because we are at their low level, because the Republicans can't live under one Constitution when the Democrats live under another Constitution and it's the only way we're going to stop them!”
Impeachment talk returned to the network’s airwaves in the waning days of the 2020 presidential election, as Fox and other outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch tried to help Trump to victory by calling attention to Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Their allegations were factually dubious, Trump and his family members had far worse conflicts of interest through their own businesses, and the effort ultimately failed to gain traction. But even then, Fox hosts were setting a predicate to impeach Joe Biden if he were elected.
Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery claimed during a late October segment on The Five that because Democrats had supposedly “lower[ed] the bar” by impeaching Trump, a Joe Biden impeachment over Hunter Biden’s business dealings would be fair game. “Why wouldn’t you, if you are using the same threshold and the same standard, why would you not impeach Joe Biden?” she asked.
Fellow co-host Greg Gutfeld likewise suggested that Republicans could “start preemptive impeachment on Joe Biden, in case he wins.”
And Fox host Jeanine Pirro similarly called for Biden’s impeachment based on the bogus conspiracy theory that he had pushed out a Ukrainian prosecutor to benefit his son’s business while serving as vice president, saying, “They can impeach him for what he did in the Ukraine.”
Fox’s Sean Hannity offered the same analysis as Kennedy had, arguing to his radio audience in December 2020, at a time when Trump was seeking to subvert the election he had lost to Biden: “What are you going to do if -- you know, all these people that impeached Trump, how do you not impeach if it's Joe Biden one day? How do you not do it? It's a foreign -- it's a family foreign crime syndicate.”
Republicans were unable to carry out Hannity’s impeachment dream for the next two years, with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress. But just weeks after Republicans won a slim House majority in the 2022 midterm elections, he predicted that an impeachment over Hunter Biden’s business dealings was inevitable.
“When you look at this evidence, it seems overwhelming where this is going,” Hannity told his radio audience on November 30, 2022. “I don't have the answer whether or not the money has influenced political decisions of Joe Biden, but we do know for sure that Joe Biden lied about talking with his son about these business dealings, and that he was up to his eyeballs in it, way more than he ever indicated, and that's gonna be very problematic for him.”
He concluded: “And where it goes, it could be -- it could be down the road of impeachment. That's my prediction for the year.”
The year that followed has been marked by three overlapping trends: repeated indictments of Trump on state and federal charges, fruitless congressional efforts to uncover damning evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s businesses, and demands from Fox for Republicans to retaliate against Democrats for the former, including by turning the latter into fodder for impeachment.
On June 9, the day after a federal grand jury indicted Trump on 37 counts over his withholding of highly classified government documents, Fox host Jesse Watters said he wanted Biden impeached as a “distraction” from Trump’s legal troubles.
Fox hosts issued a new wave of calls for Biden’s impeachment in late July and early August, as the nation awaited and reacted to Trump’s federal indictment over his election subversion.
“I say: Impeach away. They wasted our time. Let's waste theirs. And it's deserved,” said Gutfeld.
“The issue is whether or not impeachment is appropriate,” said Pirro. “I think it is. I think it's long past time.”
Watters explicitly said that Republicans needed to move fast on impeachment so it could garner media attention and hurt Biden’s reelection campaign as a “counter” to Trump’s trials.
“Without the impeachment, you have back-to-back-to-back-to-back Trump trials,” he explained. “The media’s not going to cover anything else. Biden’s going to hide and Trump is going to be criminalized on TV. But if Republicans time this right and follow the evidence where it leads, impeachment is going to run counter to the Trump trials next year.”
Watters was saying out loud what has been clear all along. The GOP and its Fox propagandists have settled on renominating a flagrantly corrupt former president who could be convicted on an array of charges, some linked to his attempt to remain in power after losing the 2020 elections. Rather than picking someone who isn’t looking at four state and federal trials on scores of charges, they want to tear down his opponent by ginning up a scandal and hoping that the mainstream press fails to make clear what they’re doing.