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5 takes on the Hunter Biden laptop that have aged poorly

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When the news of the Hunter Biden laptop broke in 2020, it was originally dismissed as Russian disinformation. Now, it has been entered as official, legitimate evidence in court in Hunter’s federal gun crime trial.

Here are five of the most shocking instances where the laptop was dismissed as illegitimate. 

Politico reports on letter from intel officials who claimed laptop was Russian disinformation

Soon after the Hunter Biden story was published by the New York Post on Oct. 14, 2020, media outlets were quick to suggest that the laptop in question was part of a complex operation by Russia to impact the U.S. Presidential Election.

The narrative by the media stemmed in part from an open letter penned by 51 former intelligence officials, who claimed that the laptop had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”


The letter was first reported and circulated by Politico, which ran the headline “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” U.S. intelligence officials suggested that the emails on the laptop may have been hacked and altered by the Kremlin to incriminate Hunter.

The New York Times and The Washington Post both verified Hunter Biden's laptop after dismissing the New York Post's bombshell reporting during the 2020 presidential election.

The New York Times and The Washington Post both eventually verified Hunter Biden’s laptop after big tech dismissed the New York Post’s bombshell reporting during the 2020 presidential election. The Post reporting was famously censored by Twitter ahead of the 2020 election. (Getty images  |  New York Post)

Among the signatories were former Director of National Intelligence-turned-CNN analyst James Clapper, former CIA Director-turned-MSNBC analyst John Brennan and former CIA chief of staff-turned-MSNBC analyst Jeremy Bash. Clapper later distanced himself from the letter.

Politico and the former intelligence officials who signed the letter are under renewed scrutiny after the laptop was formerly entered into evidence this week and confirmed legitimate by the FBI as part of Hunter’s federal gun crime trial.

When asked for comment, Politico stressed that its article made clear that claims of potential Russian interference were the opinions of the former intelligence officials, not the outlet itself. 

Twitter uses Big Tech might to block Hunter Biden story and punish New York Post

When the New York Post’s bombshell report was first published with weeks to go before the 2020 election, Twitter was quick to limit or block sharing of the story in an unprecedented display of coordination. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has also admitted the social media platform was wrong to intervene in the Hunter Biden story.

Twitter, which was renamed X after Elon Musk bought it years later, went to unprecedented lengths to prevent the Post’s story from being shared, claiming that it stemmed from “hacked material,” which was false.

The tech giant barred anyone from tweeting out the articles or sharing them privately through direct message. Twitter even locked the Post’s account and told the outlet it could only be unlocked if it deleted its tweets promoting its reporting. The Post refused and eventually regained access to its account.

Vijaya Gadde, who was terminated from Twitter after Elon Musk acquired the platform, told a congressional committee in February 2023 that she ultimately approved the decision to block The Post’s report about Hunter’s laptop and its contents, but said the move should have been reversed quicker.

’60 Minutes’ insists laptop cannot be verified during Trump interview

In one of the most memorable media conversations regarding the story, Trump appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” shortly after the thread emerged and called the laptop “one of the biggest scandals” he had ever seen. But interviewer Lesley Stahl insisted there was no way to conclude the laptop or its contents were real. 


“Excuse me, they found the laptop. Lesley. Listen,” Trump said, as Stahl repeatedly interjected that the laptop could not be verified. 

“What can’t be verified?” Trump asked.

60 Minutes Lesley Stahl interview

Veteran CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl famously said the Hunter Biden laptop couldn’t be verified during her “60 Minutes” interview with then-President Trump. (Screenshot/CBS News)

“The laptop!” Stahl exclaimed.

“Why do you say that?” Trump responded, before further arguing the laptop was legitimate. 

Stahl also rebuked Trump’s suggestion that Hunter was embroiled in a “scandal.”

Stahl’s employer, CBS News, confirmed in 2022 via its own forensic investigation that the laptop and its contents were legitimate. The admission prompted many Trump allies to vilify Stahl, and Hunter Biden’s trial has reignited criticism of the veteran journalist. 

NPR calls laptop story a ‘distraction’ and says it doesn’t want to ‘waste’ readers’ time

On the morning of the second presidential debate between then-candidate Joe Biden and then-President Trump, NPR, which had up until then ignored the scandal surrounding Hunter’s laptop, offered a quote explaining its editorial standard. 

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions. And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event and we decided to treat it that way,” NPR managing editor Terence Samuel said. 

NPR statement on Hunter Biden laptop story

NPR issued a statement in 2020 that it wasn’t going to waste time on the Hunter Biden laptop story, which it said was not real.  (Screenshot/NPRPublicEditor/Twitter, Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)


The comment came in response to an NPR radio listener who could not understand why the story had been ignored. 

NPR would later go on to suggest that the laptop was “discredited by U.S. intelligence and independent investigations by news organizations.”

Joe Biden dismisses son’s laptop during debate against Trump 

During the final 2020 presidential debate against Trump, Biden said the laptop was a “bunch of garbage” that “nobody believes.”

“There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant,” the elder Biden said of the laptop at the time. 

His comments received no pushback from the debate moderator. 

The White House had previously been warned by U.S. intelligence agencies prior to the laptop that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, was the target of a Russian intelligence operation to feed false information to the then-president. Giuliani had the laptop hard drive in his possession before it was handed over to the New York Post.

Trump Biden Presidential Debate

Then-President Donald Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their final 2020 U.S. presidential campaign debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., October 22, 2020. 

Contemporaneous and current Biden aides Kate Bedingfield, Andrew Bates and Neera Tanden also pushed the claims of Russian disinformation based on the letter from intelligence officials. 

“Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say,” Jen Psaki, who later served as White House press secretary, wrote in October 2020, which was retweeted by now-Domestic Policy Council director Susan Rice.

After President Biden took office, several news organizations, including CNN, MSNBC, NBC News, CBS News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico and NPR verified the laptop’s legitimacy to some degree.

Fox News reached out to Twitter, Facebook, 60 Minutes and NPR for comment. 


Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn, Brian Flood, Gabriel Hays and Hanna Panreck contributed to this report.

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