Monday, 2 March 2020

NYT Runs Puff Piece on Hunter Biden, Paints Him as a Sensitive Artist

Last July, The New Yorker did a profile on Hunter Biden titled “Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?” I’ll give you the TL;DR: “He shouldn’t, you judgmental jerk.”
In that piece, Biden was described as a prodigal son who’d come back to the Biden home numerous times after eating his carob pods with the pigs.
Yes, he’d bought crack in a homeless encampment in Los Angeles. Yes, he’d been doing coke while he was on the board of Ukrainian energy firm Burisma. Yes, his wife claimed in divorce papers that he’d been “spending extravagantly on his own interests (including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations), while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.” Yes, he’d … OK, point is, Hunter Biden’s seen some stuff, man.
But for real, guys, he’d changed! He’d turned over a new leaf! He’d gotten married, turned over a new leaf and, then 49, had become the kind of aging hipster/hippie who wears a T-shirt that says “Be F—ing Nice.” (Seriously, that’s what he wore during part of the interview process.) So stop picking on this belatedly maturing boyo, everyone. He’s getting it together. Be … nice.
The subcontext, of course, is that Biden’s conservative opponents want Joe Biden’s son pilloried for his personal life. This is false.
If Hunter Biden wants to live like Hunter Thompson, he should go ahead. That’s clearly an aim of his and he wouldn’t be the first D.C. wastrel who’s able to get away with absolute dissolution because of his family lineage. What we care about is the fact he’s managed to get so many jobs that are either aligned with his father’s legislative interests or which — let’s be blunt — only have to do with his last name.
This becomes especially pertinent when you consider these jobs came at the same time Biden was probably spending a good deal of his time holed up in a suite at the Four Seasons D.C., waving a crack pipe around and jabbering about how the Beltway was bat country.
In the interim, it’s clear he hasn’t gotten it together. He’s currently involved in a child support suit with a former college athlete he apparently met while she was a stripper at his favorite club. He resisted taking a DNA test and is now trying to pass himself off as unemployed so that his no-doubt amply lined pockets aren’t affected.
But, as The New York Times points out, he’s become one heck of an artist!
The ghost of Jean-Michel Basquiat has been duly put on notice. I’m not sure that Biden is that much of an artist, but writer Adam Popescu is a puff-piece maestro. Check out this flattering bilge:
“Dressed in Oxford boots, jeans and a long sleeve T-shirt, Hunter Biden ushered a reporter down a stone walkway, into a pool house-turned-art studio in the Hollywood Hills,” Popescu began the Friday piece.
“It was filled with colorful works of decorative abstraction — psychedelic florals and ethereal patterns that look like nature viewed through a microscope, leaning toward the surreal. There were nearly 100 of them, all by his own hand. Some were signed RH Biden, for Robert Hunter Biden, the 50-year-old son of the former vice president.
“’What do you see?’ he asked, shifting bottles of ink and a bamboo wok brush.
“The more critical question might be: How does it look to the outside world? Popescu wrote.”
From the picture provided by The Times, the outside world might think it looks a bit like this:
Popescu briefly states that Biden’s “name is very well known, for all the wrong reasons” — mostly because of the role his employment with Burisma played in President Donald Trump’s impeachment and the fact that “Republicans continue to press for a separate investigation into Mr. Biden’s work for the firm.”
Yes, well, that’s how these things tend to happen. However, Hunter Biden has now chosen to step away from a career as a lobbyist and a guy with the last name Biden for hire for the life of a starving artist. Well, not too starving.
“As an undiscovered artist, he is better situated than most: living in a rented, 2,000-square-foot house in the Hollywood Hills off Mulholland Drive, with a Porsche Panamera in the driveway, plenty of natural light and a pool house he has transformed into an art studio,” Popescu wrote.
This is about as close to tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hunter’s new career as Popescu gets in the piece. What we have instead is an article that talks about things like Biden’s desirability as an artist, his taste in music (he’s really into Sturgill Simpson right now, something that may indeed induce me to delete all of his albums from my Spotify, much as I like him) and how his wife reacts to paint getting on his pants.
“His fingers and forearms were paint stained, blacks and reds deep under his nails, flecks on his jeans and boots, something his wife, Melissa Cohen, whom he married in May after a weeklong courtship, can’t stand. ‘I always get my pants dirty,’ he said. ‘I don’t even notice it, but Melissa hates it.’”
As Popescu paints a portrait of his own, he inserts the oft-repeated backstory about How Hard the Bidens Have It.
“For years, vodka and cocaine were constant companions. Mr. Biden has talked often of facing the twin demons of addiction and personal loss. His mother Neilia and sister Naomi died in a 1972 car wreck, in which 2-year-old Hunter suffered a severe head injury,” Popescu wrote.
“Later, as he looked to escape temptations, the painting became therapeutic, he said. So did writing poems and short stories (he was accepted into Syracuse University’s creative writing program in 1993, but chose law school). Recently, he said, he has been writing letters to his deceased brother Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2015, a loss that sent Mr. Biden off on a four-year nightmare.”
“I was addicted to crack for four years,” Hunter Biden said. “I went through a really long period of addiction and I was at a point where I didn’t read, write, think. I don’t do things halfway. That can be a problem.”
Not to diminish the death of Joe Biden’s first wife or his son, Beau, but nothing can possibly induce this preternaturally privileged drone to take responsibility for anything he’s done. It was Beau’s death. The pressure of being a Biden. His divorce. There’s always something that’s sent Hunter off the deep end.
Here’s the piece’s brief mention of Hunter’s latest foray into fatherhood, one he hasn’t exactly embraced: “This past November, a paternity suit revealed he was the father of a toddler; he had met the child’s mother in Washington. On Wednesday, a judge ordered Mr. Biden to come to Arkansas, where the mother lives, for a March deposition. The mother’s lawyer said that, among other things, he wanted to know whether Mr. Biden was making money from his art.”
The piece isn’t particularly interested in exploring the fact that Hunter fought taking a paternity test. Nor is it interested in the fact that, according to the New York Post, he met the mother at his favorite strip club in the District, the Mpire Club, while she was employed there in a position other than management. It’s also not interested that this was about the time he broke up with his brother’s widow, Hallie Biden.
The piece also makes a point of stating that “[t]here has been no proof of any wrongdoing by Mr. Biden related to his business dealings in Ukraine.” There’s also been no in-depth investigation of an unbelievably shady situation, one where the son of the vice president of the United States was hired for a well-remunerated position on the board of a state energy firm in a country where he has no business experience and in a sector in which he has no work experience.
Then there was his work with a Romanian oligarch accused of corruption, also glossed over. A sentence is dedicated to his curious dealings in China. Here’s how Popescu transitions out of it: “But perception rules. Even if no laws were broken by him, Mr. Biden has made questionable choices,” he wrote. “At his studio, Mr. Biden talked about his work while puffing an e-cigarette, and staring into the distance. The soaring hawks came back into view. ‘See them, it’s a family,’ he said. ‘There were three yesterday, now there are four. That’s special.’”
Reading journalistic debris like that, I get the feeling there was a heap of preconditions for this interview. One imagines Biden’s people snarling to some poor mid-level editor at The Times over FaceTime: “This has to be about painting, you hear? I’m going to put it in the contract: Any more than three mentions of Burisma and your people are riding in the other press bus, the one with the local guys from the Dogwood Patch Advertiser-Gazette. No malarkey. We clear?”
The other alternative is not to do the piece, but I doubt the Gray Lady needed much coaxing. Meanwhile, picture if one of the Trump kids was an absentee father with a record of guzzling vodka and smoking crack throughout the entirety of his half-century on earth — and oh yeah, he’s linked to multiple instances of corruption that nobody’s really bothered to look into. Then picture that they wanted to get into painting pictures. How do you think that would go?
Here’s what I don’t see: a quote from alternate universe Eric Trump telling a reporter from The Times, as he looks at some soaring hawks, “See them, it’s a family. There were three yesterday, now there are four. That’s special.”

In many ways, I’d prefer this didn’t happen in my alternate universe. I’d also prefer it didn’t happen in this universe, either, but que sera sera.

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