Hunter Biden in front of a gavel

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Hunter Biden charges fail to appease right-wing media's shifting goal posts

On September 14, Hunter Biden was indicted on charges relating to an illegal purchase of a firearm. After years of calling for criminal charges  against the president’s son, conservative media are now moving the goal posts, saying that the Department of Justice is avoiding pursuing more important charges against the president’s son because they might implicate his father, and alleging the gun charges — which could lead to prison time — are part of a cover-up by the Biden administration.

  • Hunter Biden’s legal saga continues

    • On September 14, special counsel David Weiss indicted Hunter Biden on three charges related to the illegal purchase of a firearm in 2019. The indictment accuses the president’s son of misrepresenting his drug use on a federal firearms form and illegally possessing the firearm while being addicted to drugs. The charges were brought forward by special counsel David Weiss. [CNN, 9/14/23]
    • In August, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Weiss to serve as special counsel for the Hunter Biden probe. Weiss, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, was previously the U.S. attorney in Delaware and had already spent several years investigating Hunter Biden. [NBC News, 8/11/23]
    • Garland installed Weiss as special counsel after a Trump-appointed judge overturned a plea deal for Hunter Biden’s federal tax charges. Trump-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika ruled that the gun charges, which had initially been included in the plea deal, should be tried separately from the federal tax charges.[NBC News, 7/26/23]
  • Right-wing media have established a record of attacking the Department of Justice’s handling of the Hunter Biden case

    • Right-wing media have claimed that the DOJ is not doing enough to prosecute Hunter Biden even as the agency’s investigation deepens and the president’s son faces criminal charges. Fox News personalities attacked the DOJ after Weiss’ special counsel appointment, accusing him of bias even though Trump originally appointed him to his post as U.S. attorney. [Media Matters, 9/14/23]
    • Fox News has repeatedly drawn comparisons between Hunter Biden’s and Donald Trump’s alleged crimes. In July, after Trump was charged with attempting to destroy evidence in the DOJ case that indicted him for mishandling classified documents, Fox News spent twice as much time discussing Hunter Biden as it spent covering the former president’s new charges. [Media Matters, 7/31/23]
    • Despite little evidence that Hunter Biden’s alleged crimes involve Joe Biden, right-wing media continue to insinuate that the younger Biden’s legal troubles will lead to the president’s impeachment. Right-wing media have insisted that further investigation into the Biden family will yield enough damning evidence to warrant impeaching the president. [Media Matters, 9/6/23]
  • Right-wing media argue that the Hunter Biden firearm indictment doesn’t go far enough and the gun charges amount to a cover-up of larger Biden family crimes

    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham called the Hunter Biden indictment a “smoke screen” to distract from other scandals. “Is it bigger than the Biden family, perhaps, being on the take with foreign governments and having our foreign policy affected by it?” Ingraham asked. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 9/14/23]
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt called Hunter Biden's indictment and the three gun charges “the start of a grand cover-up.” “They indicted Hunter,” Schmitt said. “Some people probably think it means something. I personally think that this is just the start of a grand cover up they have designed.” Schmitt did not specify what was supposedly being covered up. [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 9/14/23]
    • Conservative judicial activist Mike Davis told Newsmax’s Greg Kelly: “Don't be fooled by this at all. This is just more political cover-up by David Weiss.” Kelly responded saying, “That all makes sense.” [Newsmax, Gregg Kelly Reports, 9/14/23]
    • Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said “Both Garland and Weiss, it appears to me, are trying to protect both of the Bidens.” Jarrett claimed that Weiss pursued gun charges against Hunter Biden to avoid prosecuting more serious crimes that would “inevitably involve Joe Biden.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/15/23]
    • Ben Shapiro described the Hunter Biden indictment as a way to “distract” from other “key crimes.” “Does this make any difference at all to the real underlying issues surrounding Hunter Biden?” Shapiro asked. “Of course not. They’re charging him on the ancillary crimes to distract from the fact that they’re not charging him on the key crimes.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 9/15/23]
    • Newsmax host Chris Plante called the timing of the indictment “noteworthy” because “Attorney General Merrick Garland, he's set to testify on Capitol Hill next week, and now he’s got something to say that will calm the waters.” Plante suggested that Garland would use the Hunter Biden gun charges to deflect criticism from Republican lawmakers who would “grill him on the obvious collusion between the Biden administration, the Department of Justice, and, you know, the sweetheart deal.”. [Newsmax, The Right Squad, 9/14/23]
    • OAN host Kara McKinney said the indictment “sounds like another distraction” because it does not implicate President Biden. McKinney also argued that the gun charges were meant to distract the public from the House GOP’s impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. “Maybe the feds and the corrupt state DAs they work with ran out of indictments to lob against Trump to distract away from the Biden impeachment,” McKinney said. “So instead they’re indicting Hunter on something unrelated to the Biden family corruption.” [One America News, The Tipping Point with Kara McKinney, 9/14/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Kyle Becker tweeted that “Hunter's indictment is part of the Biden scandal cover-up.” [Twitter/X, 9/14/23]
    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk questioned the timing of the indictment. Kirk posted on X, “The day after the Washington Post and the New York Times say Biden shouldn't run, they drop a new indictment on Hunter. 🤔” [Twitter/X, 9/14/23]
    • War Room podcast producer Natalie Winters: “The Hunter Biden indictment is a clear misdirection play.” [Twitter/X, 9/14/23]
    • Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed, “These charges don't matter,” adding, “This is the only crime that doesn't involve Joe Biden and it’s the only one that’s being prosecuted.” “This just lets the Justice Department save face and say, ‘See, take us seriously, we’re holding Hunter accountable,’’’ Watters continued. “And then he’ll just cut another deal after the election or get pardoned.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 9/14/23]
    • Jarrett claimed Weiss is “refusing to bring felony charges for millions of dollars in tax fraud tax evasion that would send anyone else, you and me, to prison.” Jarrett claimed Weiss had “spent the last five years acting, effectively, as Hunter Biden’s defense attorney” and predicted that the special counsel would go easy on the president’s son. “This will be another example of preferential treatment and crooked justice,” Jarrett said. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/14/23]
    • Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hesgeth dismissed the indictment: “This is the one charge that doesn't implicate Joe Biden.” Hegseth continued, “Foreign business dealings, lying on tax returns, they are still out there. They could be a part of it. The question is does this actually go to trial or do they plead again?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/15/23]
    • Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whittaker said the gun charges were “a big step, but not the full enchilada.” “There's the FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act], the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and, of course, the tax charges still out there, but we don't know how they are being investigated.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/15/23]
    • When criminal defense attorney Phil Hollaway suggested that Weiss might “dig into things that might implicate other Bidens or even the president,” Fox host Harris Faulkner cast doubt on the possibility, saying, “There’s a lot of doubt that there’s any more to come.” She added, “If his name were Hunter Smith and he lied on a gun form to illegally obtain a weapon, the situation might be different,” Faulkner argued. “That person might not have familial privilege. This guy’s got a ton of it.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 9/15/23]
    • Right-wing influencers the Hodgetwins tweeted: “Nobody gives a damn about Hunter Biden’s gun charge. We care about him using his dad to sell out our country.” [Twitter/X, 9/15/23]