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The sordid tale of Twitter and Hunter Biden’s laptop

Why are journalists trying to downplay Elon Musk’s Twitter revelations?

Pedestrians walk outside Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu

The sordid tale of Twitter and Hunter Biden’s laptop
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On Friday, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk made good on a promise to reveal what happened internally when, heading into the 2020 election, the social media giant censored the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop. Given that the corporate media has grudgingly acknowledged the laptop was authentic long after it would have mattered, the experience of reading journalist Matt Taibbi’s reporting on the “Twitter Files” just released by Musk is infuriating. That is especially true if you care about free speech.

Internal Twitter docs certainly seem to show the social media company was making up policies on the fly as it censored the story and was eager to do the bidding of the Biden campaign, among other questionable actors.

This is another devastating blow to media credibility, just like the reporting on COVID’s origins, Russia collusion, and the myriad of other stories our politicized press has badly blown in the last several years. And yet again, major media are largely choosing to ignore or downplay their own failures in the hopes no one notices.

It took the New York Times three days to cover the “Twitter files,” and the Times focused heavily on the online debate rather than the substance of the revelations. The Washington Post’s sole story on the matter was almost comically biased—“Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds.” The paper was telling readers the details were unpersuasive in the headline.

The Post further contended Twitter files produced “no smoking gun showing that the tech giant had bent to the will of Democrats,” which is just dishonest on the merits.

At one point, Taibbi writes, “By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: ‘More to review from the Biden team.’ The reply would come back: ‘Handled.’” That’s pretty clear evidence of Twitter bending to the will of Democrats.

Other supposed journalists have downplayed the Biden campaign’s special ability to get tweets scrubbed. In the example email provided by Taibbi, the tweets the Biden campaign wanted scrubbed involved compromising pictures of Hunter Biden leaked from the laptop. The Bulwark’s Tim Miller summed it up this way, “No, You Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Post Hunter Biden’s [redacted body part] Pic on Twitter.”

Indeed, several other journalists have also attempted to reduce any interest in the laptop to attempts to embarrass Hunter Biden by dwelling on his lurid, drug-fueled sex life. While no one needs to see naked pictures of Hunter Biden, and perhaps Twitter was right to remove them, the Bill Clinton defense doesn’t fly here, either.

The response from congressional Democrats to the accurate reporting of a major scandal implicating the head of their party was to advocate censorship and denigrate the First Amendment.

Recall that the media reported extensively on baseless rumors spread by the Democratic Party in their fake “dossier” that Trump cavorted with prostitutes in Moscow, and as a result, Putin had Kompromat on the president. By contrast, Hunter’s laptop contains all kinds of verifiable details showing that Hunter Biden paid for several prostitutes linked to Russians, which is clearly a national security concern.

Hunter further took multiple prostitutes across state lines, which may be an actual sex trafficking crime. A video from his laptop shows him trying to get a distraught escort to say he didn’t hurt her on camera. His sex life is a criminal concern and compromising to his father in ways that are clearly matters of public interest.

Also note that Taibbi makes it clear that requests to delete tweets from Biden and others were “routine.” Real journalists would be demanding to see more Twitter documents and demanding to know what else the Biden campaign wanted hidden, not offering pathetic assurances that the laptop is just a sex scandal of no importance.

Make no mistake, the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop has always been first and foremost about political corruption. Embarrassing as it might be, President Biden would rather have the public, forgive the pun, twittering about his son’s sex life than having sober discussions about the laptop’s detailed evidence showing our current president was meeting with dodgy Ukrainian oligarchs at fancy Georgetown restaurants at his son’s request.

Last but certainly not least, the Twitter files contains an amazing email where Twitter’s in-house lobbyist hears from Carl Szabo of the research firm NetChoice about a survey they did with a small sample of House Democrats the day after the laptop scandal broke.

“The Democrats were in agreement: social media needs to moderate more because they’re corrupting democracy and making all ‘truth’ relative,” writes Szabo. “When pushed on how the government might insist on that, consistent with the First Amendment, they demurred: ‘the First Amendment isn’t absolute.’”

In sum, the response from congressional Democrats to the accurate reporting of a major scandal implicating the head of their party was to advocate censorship and denigrate the First Amendment. This revelation alone should be a major scandal, but it’s so much worse than that.

Reporters can choose to pretend it’s just a coincidence that a social media company with hundreds of millions of users wasn’t responding to political pressure when it censored the laptop story. And yet, if they’re not alarmed enough to be asking a lot of pointed questions right now, they should just stop calling themselves journalists. They are not acting like journalists. They are acting like protectors of a political regime. This is the threat to democracy we should actually be worried about.

Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.

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