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2023: Liberal reporters avoided asking Biden about Hunter's growing legal woes in formal interviews
December 30 2023, 08:00

The year 2023 was politically rough for President Biden, but many of the liberal journalists he sat down with did their best to stay away from one of his most glaring issues. 

Between dismal polling that shows him losing to former President Trump in 2024, international crises like the wars in Europe and the Middle East, and multiple White House controversies including his viral gaffes and the unsolved cocaine mystery, Biden has been hit with plenty of negative headlines

But perhaps the biggest clouds hovering over his re-election bid going into the new year are the legal troubles facing his son Hunter. Yet in formal sit-down interviews he granted this year, the subject was rarely if ever broached.

Hunter Biden was hit with multiple rounds of indictments this year. The first was in June out of Delaware when he pleaded guilty to tax crimes and reached what was widely regarded by critics as a "sweetheart" deal with the Department of Justice on a felony gun change, a deal that ultimately fell apart upon scrutiny – he went on to plead not guilty on the gun change in October. The second was in December, this time out of California, for additional tax crimes. 


Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee has been carrying out its investigation of foreign business dealings involving the Biden family and whether the president himself was directly involved in the profiteering of his son and brother James Biden while he served as vice president and after. Their findings allege millions of dollars from foreign countries including China and Ukraine were funneled into bank accounts of several Biden family members and business partners. 

House Republicans voted to formally launch an impeachment inquiry into Biden. 

Despite campaigning on restoring norms in the White House following the Trump years, Biden has granted little access to the press since he took office and 2023 was no different. Biden held fewer press conferences than every president in recent memory. He granted even fewer interviews. 

Back in February, Biden was grilled in a pair of sit-downs with PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff and ABC's David Muir about his classified documents scandal. What followed was a string of friendly interviews in the spring with "The Daily Show" guest host (and former Obama aide) Kal Penn, NBC's Al Roker and MSNBC's Joe Scarbourgh. 


The last time Biden was asked about the troubles facing Hunter in a formal setting was before he was formally indicted. In a May 5 interview, MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle sympathetically said to the president, "There's something personal that’s affecting you. Your son, while there's no ties to you, could be charged by your Department of Justice. How would that impact your presidency?" Biden responded by saying Hunter had done "nothing wrong" and that he was "proud of him."

Since then, Biden granted interviews with MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, CNN's Fareed Zakaria, British wellness podcast host Jay Shatt, The Weather Channel's Stephanie Abrams, ProPublica's John Harwood, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes," Spanish radio host Tony Arias, CNN's Anderson Cooper on his podcast about grief and comedian Conan O'Brien, marking his final sit-down of 2023. 

All of them avoided the subject. He's had less luck in more informal settings; earlier this month, he snapped at a New York Post reporter who asked why he'd interacted with so many of his son's business associates.

"I'm not going to comment. I did not, and it's just a bunch of lies," Biden said. "They're lies. I did not. They're lies."

In those formal interviews with more friendly journalists, the president did not face any questions about his son's federal charges, the money trails between various foreign entities and several members of the Biden family uncovered by House Republicans and the IRS whistleblower allegations of misconduct in the DOJ's handling of the Hunter Biden probe. In other words, he has not been asked about Hunter across nine consecutive interviews in the span of seven months.

Instead, Biden's interviewers lobbed fairly easy questions and often showered him with praise. 


MSNBC's Wallace raised eyebrows for her giddy June exchange with the president, occurring just days after his son pleaded guilty. CNN's Zakaria told Biden in July that Americans are "impressed" with him and believe he's been a "great president." 

Harwood kicked off his September interview by admitting "how wrong" he was to doubt that Biden could win the 2020 election. There was just one mention of the legal woes facing his son Hunter and the impeachment inquiry informally launched at the time by House Republicans, but it was framed in a question knocking the GOP's "ability to govern" under then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Some of the questions Pelley posed to Biden in the October "60 Minutes" interview largely focused on the Israel-Gaza war include "Why do you feel so strongly about speaking to these families [of American hostages in Gaza] personally on Zoom?," "Is getting the American hostages back safely among your highest priorities now?," "Does the dysfunction that we've seen in Congress increase the danger in the world?" and "Why do you feel so strongly? What does Israel mean to you?" 

Pelley previously interviewed Biden in September 2022. It is rare for anyone to secure one interview with the current president, let alone two. 

President Biden has been criticized for his "friendly" sit-downs, even by members of the legacy media.

"They pretty much made it clear that I don't think they - they see that they may be meeting that standard by putting the president up for interviews with, I would say, friendly talk show hosts and maybe getting their message out on social media," New York Times reporter Zolan Kanno-Youngs said at the Texas Tribune Festival in September.