The New York Times on Tuesday published an opinion piece by author Peter Schweizer titled “What Hunter Biden Did Was Legal — And That’s the Problem.” Seemingly disguised as concern about allegedly corrupt deals in Ukraine, the piece is really the latest maneuver in the Republican strategy of shielding President Donald Trump from his own scandals by redirecting attention to his political opponents — and it was written by a figure experienced in exactly this sort of misdirection.
And maybe the worst part: This isn’t even the first time that the Times and Schweizer have teamed up like this.
Schweizer is described in the author information at the end of the piece as follows: “Peter Schweizer, an investigative journalist, is the author, most recently, of ‘Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.’”
There’s no mention of Schweizer’s current status as a senior contributor at Breitbart, the right-wing website once headed up by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. The site promotes far-right and white nationalist theories, such as the purported “great replacement” theory, which was the topic of an article just last week. (While promoting the op-ed on Fox Business, Schweizer was also introduced as president of the Government Accountability Institute, which has close ties to Breitbart.)
As for the Times piece itself, there’s an obvious blind spot in its supposed concern about political families enriching themselves: The name “Trump” comes up exactly once — but not in reference to any of the well-documented instances of President Donald Trump and his family enriching themselves off of his government position. Instead, Schweizer mentions Trump in a reference to his cabinet member Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“The Bidens are hardly alone,” Schweizer writes, before laying out an overview of the business dealings of Chao’s father, James Chao.
By selecting a Republican other than Trump to be a sort of lightning rod, Schweizer thus gives the piece a pretense of bipartisan concern — while then redirecting that concern right back at the Biden family.
“Last month, the House Oversight and Reform Committee started an investigation into whether Secretary Chao has leveraged her government positions to benefit her family,” Schweizer writes. “But so far there is no investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden.”
Indeed, Schweizer pulled the same trick of offering seeming bipartisan concerns against a Republican in 2015 when he had just written a book attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (Back then, his chosen Republican target was Jeb Bush.) Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash became notorious for its many factual errors — its publisher sent out an updated version on the Kindle platform, attempting to make some “factual corrections” — but it still enjoyed a friendly public reception.
As Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz has written of Clinton Cash:
Several outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, “made exclusive agreements” with Schweizer, receiving chapters of the book they could read and report out prior to its publication. Crucially, even when the resulting articles indicated that aspects of the story didn’t hold up, they still helped give the allegations oxygen.
When Gertz wrote that, just two weeks ago, Schweizer had not yet been able to repeat that feat with his latest book. Instead, he was appearing on Fox and relying on Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to promote its many allegations during his own media appearances.
But now that he’s been given the honor of a published piece in The New York Times, Schweizer’s newest adventure in smearing Democratic presidential candidates can proceed with a luster of reputability.