Biden is an ideal for Carlson’s calibrated attacks. The new House Republican majority’s surveillance initiatives focus on Biden’s business dealings and his famous laptop — which surfaced late in his father’s life. 2020 presidential campaign – can always be relied upon to stir up further outrage. Especially when you specialize in twisting facts.
That’s what Carlson did on January 16, when he amplified a claim on social media about a document on the laptop — specifically, a background check form that was completed when Hunter Biden in 2018 was looking to rent real estate in Los Angeles. The form listed Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington under Hunter Biden’s “current address.” Under the separate heading “Current Residence,” the form lists a company named “Owasco PC” with a monthly rent of nearly $50,000. The “clean” box is checked.
On January 12, a Twitter user (@jj_talking) reported formprompting Miranda Devine, the New York Post reporter who wrote a book on the Hunter Biden laptop, to post her own comment: “In 2018, Hunter Biden claimed he owned the house where Joe Biden kept classified documents next to his Corvette in the garage.”
Cue the Carlson riffs: “On the form, Hunter Biden claims he pays almost $50,000 a month in housing costs. $50,000 per month. Where does this money come from? the host said on his Jan. 16 show. After detailing Biden’s slide through tough times, Carlson said, “So how could a disgraced drug addict with no professional skills earn enough money to make a $50,000 a month payment? Who paid him and how much did they pay him? And why were they paying him?
And then the speculation with a garnish of innuendo:
So is it possible that Joe Biden’s lifestyle was funded by his son and his son’s dealings with foreign governments? Apparently he shared a bank account with his son. Keep in mind that when Hunter Biden left his wife and three children, they were effectively broke. Could the money be going to Joe Biden, whose house “owns” Hunter Biden? Hmm. We do not know. But these are interesting and interesting questions.
These are interesting questions, of course, except for the lack of evidence. As the Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out, the $50,000 represents Hunter Biden’s quarterly payment for the Georgetown waterfront office space he rented from Sweden House between March 2017 and February. 2018. Biden used this office space when he and his uncle held a $4.8 million contract. with a Chinese energy outfit.
In a Feb. 1 letter, Bryan M. Sullivan, an attorney representing Biden, asks Fox News to retract Carlson’s reporting by devoting a “significant amount of airtime” to the true facts. What Carlson did in his segment, Sullivan alleges, is to involve “essentially a money laundering scheme to fund President Biden’s lifestyle before his election to the presidency after rightfully defeating Donald Trump.”
The letter, which warns of “potential litigation,” makes much of the public reporting that preceded Carlson’s rant against Hunter Biden. As Carlson noted on his show, @jj_talking and Devine commented on the background check form on Twitter — and Carlson even credited the latter with “in-depth reporting” on the matter. What he failed to point out, however, was that Devine backtracked on the original idea with two tweets, both of which preceded Carlson’s show on the night of Jan. 16. Here is what Devine tweeted on the afternoon of January 16:
Beware of wild speculation. It was for Hunter Biden’s bid for an apartment in a hip Hollywood resort he was desperate to get into. Big-noting by falsely claiming to own dad’s house in DE. Rent may refer to the $50,000 rent he paid for his office at House of Sweden pic.twitter.com/5NhblYNSal
— Miranda Devine (@mirandadevine) January 16, 2023
“[I]In blatant violation of journalistic professionalism, Mr. Carlson intentionally ignored Ms. Devine’s warning tweets that the $50,000-a-month rent was ‘wild speculation,'” Sullivan’s letter reads.” He didn’t say anything about those tweets although he hinted that he had been in his tweets describing her as having “reported extensively on this.” These considerations, Sullivan asserts, mean Carlson and Fox News “certainly acted with reckless disregard” in reporting the “rent” allegation or “more likely, knew it to be untrue and unreliable, but still engaged in such conduct.
Carlson’s state of mind would be key to any defamation suit brought by Hunter Biden’s lawyers, as public figures must prove that the offending news outlets acted with knowledge of the falsity of their claims or with “contempt.” reckless” of their truth or falsity. That’s a tough bar to jump, and there are other complicated considerations: the background check form is absurdly complex, a problem that could validate Carlson’s claim that he was only To ask questions “. And how defamatory was this segment, in light of Hunter Biden’s already tarnished reputation?
Toward the end of the chat, Carlson noted that there was a lot of “speculation online about the purpose of that $50,000 monthly payment. Was it for his office? Did he lie on the form? Bold inserted to highlight a comment that could swing back and forth: Carlson could argue that this shows he was simply asking a question, without claiming to have the answer; Hunter Biden’s lawyers could argue that this proves Carlson knew the “money laundering” narrative was irrelevant.
Recall that in December 2018, Carlson said on the air that Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Donald Trump, “threatened[ed] ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money.
No such storyline ever took place, and McDougal sued for defamation. His lawsuit was dismissed, though Fox News attorneys admitted that Carlson engaged in “exaggerations” and “unliteral commentary”, taking advantage of case law that protects rhetorical hyperbole. This argument is a trademark cringey embarrassment for Fox News — and any litigation that forces the network to re-draw this defense is doing the public a service.