In an effort to help disgraced former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign amid four upcoming criminal trials and other legal problems, conservative media are rehashing old and debunked claims about President Joe Biden.
Fox News was at the forefront of reviving a conspiracy theory that Biden was involved in corrupt practices in Ukraine, the same baseless smear campaign that led to Trump’s first impeachment. And conservative media are also now resharing a two-year-old story about Biden sharing his daily schedules as vice president with his son Hunter to insist it somehow substantiates their unproven accusations of the president’s malfeasance concerning Ukraine.
Conservatives revive the long-debunked Burisma smear that got Trump impeached the first time
Fox News’ recent interview with disgraced former Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin repeated the same baseless narrative about Biden family corruption that was first alleged during Trump’s 2019 impeachment.
- Former Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin alleged in a recent interview with Fox News that then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed for Shokin’s ousture due to his investigation into Burisma. Shokin claimed his firing came “at the insistence of the then Vice President Biden because I was investigating Burisma,” and he added, “I have no doubt that there were illegal activities engaged in by Burisma.” [FoxNews.com, 8/26/23]
- Shokin’s claims are nothing new. The Trump administration repeatedly used Shokin as evidence of supposed Biden corruption during Trump’s first impeachment. Joe Biden and Hunter Biden denied any wrongdoing during Hunter’s tenure at Burisma. [Reuters, 9/26/19]
- Ousting Shokin was the U.S. State Department’s policy due to Shokin’s failure to prosecute corruption. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified that the push for Shokin’s removal began within the State Department. Additionally, many other Western countries wanted Shokin out due to corruption concerns, with European Union officials at the time praising Shokin’s exit. [Media Matters, 11/12/19; The Irish Times, 3/29/16]
- There is no evidence that Biden ever mentioned Burisma while discussing Shokin with Ukrainian officials. CNN reporting connects that claim to a Trump statement that has no basis. [CNN, 9/25/19]
- While right-wing media hyped the impending testimony of Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer, Archer actually testified that Bursima did not want Shokin fired. Archer claimed that the “firing of Shokin was bad for Burisma because he was under control.” (And another ex-Ukrainian official had previously claimed that Shokin’s investigation into Burisma had already been “shelved.”) [Media Matters, 8/3/23; Bloomberg, 5/7/19]
- Fox News host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Shokin in August even though there was no further evidence of his claims. [Media Matters, 8/25/23]
- Fox News further hyped Kilmeade’s interview of Shokin, pushing an anti-Biden conspiracy theory that the network knew had been debunked for years. [Media Matters, 8/28/23]
The Murdoch media already tried two years ago to manufacture a scandal about Biden sending his son his daily schedules. Now it’s trying again.
The New York Post, a corporate cousin of Fox News, first attempted in 2021 to claim that then-Vice President Joe Biden’s emails with his son Hunter — which were sent on a government account, under separate pseudonyms — demonstrated that he had specifically looped in his son on the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.
- The story is actually two years old, from when New York Post columnist Miranda Devine simply showed that Joe Biden sent Hunter his daily schedules — not any matters of actual policy. Devine wrote, “In one email from [Biden aide John] Flynn to Joe, a.k.a. Robert Peters, on May 26, 2016, and copied to Hunter, the schedule includes ‘8.45am prep for 9am phonecall with Pres Poroshenko.’” She reported that he used pseudonyms to send those emails. [New York Post, 7/23/21]
- The New York Post again proclaimed last month that Biden was emailing his schedule to Hunter to “ loop” him in “on Ukraine, government business.” The “government business” in question was Joe Biden’s personal schedule, which happened to include a Ukraine-related matter on a particular day, but did not include any substantive decision-making process. [New York Post, 8/18/23]
- The only recent news on Biden’s pseudonyms is just a Freedom of Information Act request that confirmed the existence of his emails. This FOIA request was first made two years ago by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a right-wing organization that first filed the request two years ago on behalf of discredited smear merchant John Solomon. [New York Post, 8/28/23]
- The right-wing media hunt for Biden’s government emails also stands in strong contrast to the Trump administration’s use of private emails to conduct government business. Trump administration figures who did so included Trump’s daughter Ivanka, her husband Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior adviser Stephen Miller, and many more. These actions evaded the same Freedom of Information Act and other recordkeeping laws that make it possible to pursue Biden’s messages. [Media Matters, 10/24/19]
Fox News personalities use the schedule emails to try to falsely claim scandal
Murdoch media outlets are playing a dishonest shell game: Biden sent his son his daily schedules; some of those schedules included his work on Ukraine matters; thus, they claim that Biden specifically informed his son on Ukraine matters. When Fox hosts and commentators do admit that Joe Biden simply sent his daily schedules to his son, they use this point as a springboard to allege even more wrongdoing.
- Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy acknowledged, “So far, what the people who have seen the emails between Joe Biden, using the pseudonym and others, it’s just his schedule,” before coaching House Republicans to try finding another angle on this story. Doocy pointed out that even the pseudonymous emails were on government accounts. “So, you know, they’d be crazy to put anything incriminating in those, and that's probably why we only see schedules,” Doocy said. “However, if Joe Biden had a fake Yahoo account or Hotmail or Gmail, that could be where they actually find something. Maybe the House Republicans on Oversight will request something like that.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/29/23]
- Fox News contributor Ben Domenech said the fact that the emails including scheduling details about meetings with Ukrainian officials is “something that I think deserves to have a lot more attention paid to it.” Domenech said the emails “include sharing information with Hunter Biden about the vice president's schedule, particularly as it relates not just to various foreign issues but particularly issues regarding a meeting with Ukraine officials, and that's something that I think deserves to have a lot more attention paid to it.” [Fox News, America Reports, 8/29/23]
- Fox host Jeanine Pirro claimed Joe Biden was “sharing information allegedly about his schedule that includes issues of the Ukraine.” “The staff member is told to send it to Hunter Biden,” Pirro added. “And that shows that the immediate staff around Joe Biden knew that Hunter Biden was involved in this.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/29/23]
- Fox News anchor Bret Baier read from a Washington Examiner article including the fact that Hunter Biden had been sent his father’s schedules, including on days when he had meetings with Ukraine, then added, “There's just a lot of pieces to this puzzle.” Fox News Radio host Guy Benson added, “Are we to believe that all of these emails involving pseudonyms were exclusively about the weather and fishing?” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/29/23]
- Fox host Jesse Watters imagined a fictional scenario in which Joe Biden’s lawyers would redact more incriminating evidence. During a monologue for his prime-time program, Watters crafted a fantasy for his audience wherein openly corrupt behavior would simply be redacted if Biden’s emails were ever released: “‘Hunter, I'm flying to Ukraine tomorrow. Call me about the prosecutor we were talking about.’ Redacted.” There is no evidence of such behavior. [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/29/23]
- Fox host Sean Hannity asked: “Now, why on earth would Hunter, a private citizen, be included on official government emails about Ukraine?” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/29/23]
- Fox News anchor Dana Perino claimed that “the vice president at the time was emailing his son government business … and it was all about Ukraine.” Perino made this proclamation while guest-hosting the network’s late-night comedy talk show. [Fox News, The Greg Gutfeld Show, 8/29/23]