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The Hunter Biden ‘Scandal’ Turned Out to Be a Nothingburger

Hunter Biden, son of President Joseph Biden, pleaded guilty this week to two minor tax charges. He also struck a plea deal on a gun possession charge. This is an extraordinarily anticlimactic ending to a story relentlessly pushed by top Republicans and by American right-wing media. 

Hunter Biden via YouTube screenshot.
Hunter Biden via YouTube screenshot.

Hunter Biden, son of President Joseph Biden, pleaded guilty to two minor tax charges this week. He also struck a plea deal on a gun possession charge. This is an extraordinarily anticlimactic ending to a story relentlessly pushed by top Republicans and by American right-wing media. 

Hunter Biden was supposedly a deeply corrupt figure who implicated the entire Biden government. His minor business dealings ballooned into a major national security threat to the US, particularly his relationships with China.

Hunter Biden’s personal laptop was, ostensibly, recovered by GOP operatives from the administration of former President Donald Trump. On it was supposedly damning information.

So bad was Hunter Biden, and so bad were the steps which President Biden took to help him, that they composed the ‘Biden crime family.’ The coverage was relentless

No One Knew What Hunter Biden Was Guilty Of

Observers less submerged in the American right-wing media bubble were always far more skeptical. Biden appeared to be a troubled man with a legacy of wayward personal behavior and a history of inappropriately trading on his father’s name. There never seemed to be much doubt about that. But the conspiratorial notions of right-wing pundits were always pretty far-fetched.

President Biden kept his son out of his administration. Even if he were as deeply corrupt as Trump and GOP pundits alleged, it is not clear how that might have impacted the actual functioning of the Biden administration. Republican investigators never provided a smoking gun. The many pictures leaked from Biden’s laptop were embarrassing. Apparently, they included sexually explicit photos, and Biden’s personal shenanigans were never in dispute. The issue was always whether this impacted the functioning of the administration. There is no proof they did.

Many of the allegations made were repeatedly debunked. The most notorious is the Burisma non-scandal in which President Biden intervened in Ukrainian politics to save his son’s job. This has been fact-checked as false repeatedly, yet it comes back again and again.

Perhaps most importantly, the special investigator of Biden’s affairs was appointed by a Republican – Trump – and given five years to complete his investigation. This is an extraordinarily long time, and with no political or legal interventions to inhibit his work. When Biden took office, he did not interfere. The charges returned after all that effort are remarkably minor. Every year, many Americans submit their taxes late. 

If Hunter Biden is Bad, then Trump Isn’t So Bad

Multiple investigations demanded by Trump-era Republicans have failed to turn up much. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was investigated relentlessly. In the end, she was never charged. Trump was so incensed by the FBI’s investigation into his 2016 campaign’s relationship with Russia that he organized an investigation of the investigators. After four years of work, John Durham led this, and that final report resulted in one minor prosecution, which resulted in acquittal.

Both of these investigations were relentlessly hyped. Yet they, like the Hunter Biden investigation, returned little. Similar efforts to gin up a scandal this year out of President Biden’s accidental retention of classified material have gotten little traction. Biden, when his security lapses were called out, returned the documents. Trump did not, leading to his indictment this month.

All of this calls for some explanation, and the most obvious is to counter-point the deep corruption Trump has brought to the GOP. Trump was blatant in his use of the presidency to drive business to his family properties. His self-dealing was open, and his family and their affiliated businesses profited substantially. Indeed, the sheer sordidness of the Trump presidency is the main argument of Trump’s rivals in the GOP primary. They offer Trump’s politics without the sleaze.

Trump’s gleeful disregard for the law puts his defenders in a tight spot. Their answer is whataboutism – the Democrats do it too. If they Democrats are as corrupt as the Trump family, then Trump’s misbehavior does not look so bad. This is what happens when you tie your political party to a man who admires mob bosses and does not accept that rule of law applies to him.

Like Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden has become a hated figure on the American right. The right’s standard interpretation of their dead-end investigations is that they were let off too quickly, yet further investigation is needed. This is simply conspiratorial; Biden’s investigation lasted five years and Clinton has faced allegations since the 1990s. That Republican media will not give this up, no matter the legal outcomes, speaks to the party’s descent into paranoia and desperate search to get Trump off the hook for his constant legal problems.

Expert Biography and Author Information

Dr. Robert E. Kelly ( is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University and 19FortyFive Contributing Editor.

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Written By

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well.