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The New York Times quietly deleted its assertion that an October article from the New York Post about the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son Hunter was “unsubstantiated.” In the reworked report, the outlet reported on a Federal Election Commission decision that dismissed a Republican complaint arguing Twitter violated election laws by blocking users from sharing the story during the heat of the 2020 election.
When the New York Times posted the report early Monday afternoon, it read: “The Federal Election Commission has dismissed Republican accusations that Twitter violated election laws in October by blocking people from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden.”
A tweet from the outlet's main account, which started trending on Twitter, similarly called the New York Post article an “unsubstantiated article." New York Times national political reporter Shane Goldmacher, who wrote the initial draft, similarly called it “unsubstantiated.”
Neither tweet was deleted as of Monday evening, but the New York Times article was changed without any editor’s note, which happens in the media business. However, this article stands out, as the rewrite was substantial and the original version drew intense scrutiny and backlash with its word choice.
The new version, published hours later with technology reporter Kate Conger added to the byline, removed the “unsubstantiated” claim and other significant details from the story. If not for screenshots taken earlier, the full version of the original report may have been difficult to track down as the original URL now redirects to a new one.
“Twitter decided briefly last fall to block users from posting links to an article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter," the revised report says.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “unsubstantiated” as “having no basis in reason or fact," which was not lost on frustrated Republicans who railed against the New York Times on Monday. These same people have assailed Big Tech and media outlets for their broad dismissal of unflattering reports on Hunter Biden before and after the 2020 election.
"It wasn't 'unsubstantiated,'" conservative radio host Dana Loesch said in a tweet. "The media's catering to the Bidens is an in-kind contribution."
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said on Monday the group was “weighing its options for appealing this disappointing decision from the FEC.” An October complaint from the RNC alleged: “Through its ad hoc, partisan oppression of media critical of Biden, [Twitter] is making illegal, corporate in-kind contributions as it provides unheard-of media services for Joe Biden’s campaign.”
The New York Post report in question, published in October, said the publication received a copy of a laptop and hard drive from Rudy Giuliani that was believed to have belonged to Hunter Biden. Giuliani, a personal lawyer for former President Donald Trump at the time, claimed he obtained the hard drive from John Paul MacIsaac's computer shop in Delaware.
The store owner said he also provided a copy to the FBI after Hunter Biden left it for repairs in April 2019. Hunter Biden has not denied it was his hardware.
The outlet reported that emails showed evidence of a possible meeting between Hunter Biden, his father, who was the vice president at the time, and Burisma Holdings adviser Vadym Pozharskyi, which the elder Biden denies took place as described in the reporting.
The newspaper also detailed Hunter Biden's financial dealings with shady Chinese businessmen. Hunter Biden held a position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, from 2014 to 2019.
When the New York Post attempted to post the articles on its Twitter account, the social media company claimed it violated its rule against sharing "hacked" materials. In fact, Twitter and Facebook limited users from sharing it for a time.
Earlier this year, the Daily Mail reported emails showing Hunter Biden organizing an April 2015 dinner at Georgetown's Café Milano with a guest list featuring several international figures, including Pozharskyi.
A March 2017 email from Hunter Biden said of the dinner, “Dad will be there but keep that btw us for now.”
Hunter also wrote in a March 20, 2015, email about a guest list, including one for “Vadym."
Pozharskyi sent Hunter Biden an email on April 17, 2015, saying, “Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together.”
The White House did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s questions in June about whether now-President Joe Biden attended the dinner.
Joe Biden's presidential campaign denied the meeting took place based on "Biden’s official schedules from the time." However, former senior advisers later conceded, “It's technically conceivable that Pozharskyi would have approached Biden on the sidelines of some broader U.S.-Ukraine event."
Amos Hochstein, longtime adviser to Joe Biden on Ukrainian affairs, insisted the meeting "never" took place.
Despite offering no proof, Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign and many in the media dismissed the October laptop story as part of a Russian disinformation operation. However, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said the laptop was not a Russian intelligence effort.
Concerns about Hunter Biden gained broader attention in late 2020 after multiple outlets reported he is being federally investigated in connection with his taxes and potentially related to his overseas business with China and other countries. Biden said in April he was "cooperating completely" with the investigation and insisted he is "100% certain" he will be cleared of wrongdoing.
Joe Biden’s son went on a media blitz to promote his memoir, Beautiful Things, during which he admitted the laptop could be his. However, he said he doesn’t remember and that it could have been stolen, he could have been hacked, or Russian intelligence could have been involved, without providing any evidence. A forensic analysis of the laptop’s emails reportedly concluded that “no evidence was found to suggest that the timestamps or data were altered or manufactured.”
Multiple news outlets picked up the New York Times's use of the word “unsubstantiated” on Monday.
The website for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show website directly quoted the New York Times article calling the piece “unsubstantiated.” And the Lawfare Blog wrote the FEC “has dismissed accusations from Republicans that Twitter illegally blocked users from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Hunter Biden, according to the New York Times.” Both outlets linked to the original article, which no longer contains the language they quoted.
The updated version of the New York Times piece also deleted the following section that appeared in the original: “The F.E.C. documents reveal one reason that Twitter had been especially suspicious of the Hunter Biden article. The company’s head of site integrity, according to the F.E.C., said Twitter had ‘received official warnings throughout 2020 from federal law enforcement that ‘malign state actors’ might hack and release materials associated with political campaigns and that Hunter Biden might be a target of one such operation.’ The F.E.C. said it found ‘no information that Twitter coordinated’ its decisions with the Biden campaign. In a sworn declaration, Twitter’s head of U.S. public policy said she was unaware of any contacts with the Biden team before the company made its decisions, according to the F.E.C. document.”
The FEC ruling itself was made last month and has not been made public as of Monday evening.
The day after Twitter blocked the New York Post's mid-October stories on Hunter Biden, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, "Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that.”
Twitter continued to lock the New York Post's Twitter account, insisting the outlet delete its Biden story tweets, despite no longer apparently violating any Twitter policies. Two weeks later, the New York Post tweeted out a "Free Bird" newspaper headline, and the outlet celebrated, "Twitter backed down Friday in its battle with The Post and unlocked its main account after a two-week stalemate over the Hunter Biden expose."
Dorsey testified about the controversy before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November after Biden defeated Trump.
“We made a quick interpretation, using no other evidence, that the materials in the article were obtained through hacking, and, according to our policy, we blocked them from being spread," Dorsey said. "Upon further consideration, we admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours.”
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Original Author: Daniel Chaitin, Jerry Dunleavy