News & Politics

Biden Campaign Attacks the Messenger, Not the Message, on Hunter Email Story

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

One sure-fire way to determine how close to home a damaging story is hitting your opponent is by evaluating his pushback. Is he denying the facts? Does he have an alibi? What narrative is he trying to substitute for the truth?

Or, perhaps most telling of all, is he attacking the messenger and not the message?

The Biden campaign has been caught flat-footed by email revelations that the former vice president was allegedly being less than honest about his knowledge of his son’s business dealings. And yet, they had to know that something like this was coming. They just failed to prepare.

So, at the moment, they’re flailing about and, with the usual help from the media, are trying to bury the story. And rather than answer the revelations by injecting a dose of truth into the story, they are going after the news outlet that published the revelations in the first place.

Ben Bradlee, the former editor of the Washington Post, famously talked about the “non-denial, denials” of the Nixon administration about Watergate. “They doubt our ancestry, but they don’t say the story isn’t accurate.”


“Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as ‘not legitimate’ and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing. Trump administration officials have attested to these facts under oath,” Bates said.

Bates added that the Biden campaign could not immediately respond to the story’s allegations in the Post story when it ran on Wednesday morning, because the publication “never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story. They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials.”

For the record, the NY Post reports that the Biden campaign failed to respond five times to a request for comment on the story. And I guess Rudy Giuliani’s “discredited conspiracy theories” aren’t so discredited anymore.

The emerging narrative from the Biden campaign is that this is part of a Russian disinformation campaign. But again, the campaign is not saying the story isn’t true, just that it’s propaganda.

“This is a Russian disinformation operation,” said [Michael] Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who specialized in Russia, Eurasia and the Balkans and now serves as managing director of the Penn Biden Center. “I’m very comfortable saying that.”

Being “comfortable” telling a lie is not the same as telling the truth.

I doubt whether the “Russian disinformation campaign” ploy will work. No doubt the leaks from U.S. intelligence agencies will soon begin purportedly showing that they believe the information is a plant, or that Giuliani was suckered into accepting false information. But simply saying something is “disinformation” usually isn’t enough to make it true — except in this case. The media, social media, and Biden surrogates will form a nearly impenetrable blue wall to protect the candidate. They will throw up so much shade you’ll think a thunderstorm is coming. There’s already a story this morning in The Daily Beast about Rudy Giuliani mocking Asians on YouTube — as if that has anything to do with the Hunter Biden emails.

The voters? They will hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. It’s hard to move the needle much this late in the campaign. But in a close race, who knows?

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