An October 24 NBC News article revealed that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani wrote a letter in 2018 to Romania's leaders to complain -- in contradiction to official U.S. foreign policy -- about their strong anti-corruption efforts, and that he worked on the legal team of a Romanian real estate tycoon who was convicted of bribery. But instead of making Giuliani -- whose several business associates have been arrested and charged with violating campaign finance laws -- central to its article, NBC helped Giuliani smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by focusing on reporting that his son Hunter worked for the same Romanian client as Giuliani.
NBC’s article, titled “Hunter Biden's legal work in Romania raises new questions about his overseas dealings,” reported that in 2016, Hunter was hired to advise the legal team of Gabriel “Puiu” Popoviciu, “a wealthy Romanian real estate tycoon.” Popoviciu had already been convicted in a bribery case and was attempting to appeal the conviction. NBC reported that “it’s unclear how much assistance Hunter Biden provided” in the case to overturn Popoviciu’s conviction, which ultimately failed. According to the story, “There’s no evidence that Hunter or his father acted improperly or violated any laws.”
Even though the article reported no details on his work and pointed out there is no evidence of any improper action, it still claimed, “The arrangement, government ethics experts say, raises concerns that Hunter Biden was used as a prop in Popoviciu’s effort to dodge criminal prosecution.” The article also referenced Giuliani’s previous attempt to smear the Bidens through Ukraine, again pointing out that “no proof has emerged of any wrongdoing by Hunter or his father” in that case, either.
The article, in fact, contains more disturbing revelations of Giuliani’s actions than it does of anything Hunter Biden did. Like Hunter BIden, Giuliani was also hired to assist Popoviciu in 2018 -- in what NBC termed “a strange-bedfellows arrangement” -- and as part of the work, Giuliani “wrote a letter to Romania’s president and prime minister criticizing the country’s recent efforts to rein in corruption as overly aggressive.” The article noted that what Giuliani wrote “contradicted the U.S. stance on anti-corruption efforts in Romania.” If Hunter Biden working for the same client as Giuliani is newsworthy, then Giuliani working to undermine official U.S. policy on behalf of that client should be even more so.
The news magazines New York and The Week both found Giuliani’s hypocrisy in baselessly leveling allegations of corruption at Hunter Biden to be the most newsworthy aspect of NBC’s article. But thanks to NBC’s poor framing, Trump’s campaign and his conservative media allies widely shared the article on social media and are using it to further the false narrative from Giuliani and Trump that the Bidens are corrupt.
- On Facebook, Trump's 2020 campaign national press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, shared the NBC article, writing, “Sensing a trend?”
- Trump’s 2020 campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, shared the NBC article on Twitter to also suggest a corrupt trend by Hunter Biden.
- Jerome Corsi, a conspiracy theorist who became entangled in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, portrayed NBC’s article as evidence of Biden “FAMILY CORRUPTION” and demanded Attorney General Bill Barr investigate it.
- Tom Fitton, the pro-Trump president of Judicial Watch, shared NBC’s story on Twitter, claiming, “Biden scandal expands...into Romania.”
Some journalists pointed out the absurdity of Trump’s allies using NBC’s story to smear Biden.
NBC’s decision to frame the story to further the Trump team’s false narrative that Biden is corrupt -- even though Giuliani is facing very real legal risks due to his work to get Ukraine to smear Biden -- is the latest example in a series of bad coverage decisions by mainstream media outlets on Trump’s Ukraine scandal.