CBS News has declared Hunter Biden’s laptop to be authentic, calling to mind one of the old “Far Side” comics by Gary Larson. In the cartoon, a caveman sits atop a giant prehistoric microscope, with an enormous woolly mammoth crammed underneath as the specimen.
“It’s a mammoth,” the caveman announces to one of his buddies standing nearby.
Much like Larson’s mammoth, Hunter’s laptop – which implicates his presidential father in his shady business dealings – has been easy to see without assistance for a long time. It just took CBS 25 months to see it.
Back in October 2020, the New York Post broke the story and Fox News covered it right away, but virtually no one else in the national press corps followed. The New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News, and Politico verified the laptop much later – well after it mattered for that election.
To her credit, CBS investigative reporter Catherine Herridge dragged the network back to reality this week by authenticating the computer. And for CBS to join the ranks of laptop non-deniers, they first had to overcome some of their own correspondents.
Three weeks before the 2020 presidential election, CBS reporter Bo Erickson actually asked Hunter’s father, Joe Biden, for his reaction to revelations about the laptop.
“It’s another smear campaign,” Mr. Biden said. “Right up your alley. Those are the questions you always ask.”
Mr. Erickson’s question was not inappropriate, nor was it unfair, but it was a rarity during a time when most journalists refused to address the issue with anything that approached objectivity. And it didn’t sit well with colleagues.
Fellow CBS reporter Paula Reid, who is now with CNN, tweeted a quasi-defense of Mr. Erickson by saying that insulting reporters should be out of bounds. But she undermined his question by claiming that “My @CBSEveningNews report clearly lays out warnings about [Rudy] Giuliani & Russian disinformation.”
Ms. Reid added that part because she was among the many corporate media figures who latched onto the lie that the laptop was a Russian ruse that used Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani as a conduit.
Nine days later, CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl aired a “60 Minutes” interview with then-President Donald Trump and laughed off the suggestion that the laptop represented a significant scandal.
“It can’t be verified,” Ms. Stahl scoffed.
But it already had been. And now CBS News has finally caught up.
Here are the facts.
Hunter Biden dropped his computer off at a Delaware repair shop in 2019 and never returned to collect it. Weeks before the 2020 election, the New York Post reported on its contents, which revealed details of Hunter’s primary business practice – selling access to his powerful dad, with foreign businessmen as the buyers.
Emails on the hard drive provided ample evidence that Joe Biden knew of Hunter’s influence peddling, approved of it, and likely even personally benefitted from it. One email about a deal with a Chinese energy company discussed setting aside “10 percent for the big guy,” a line since described as a reference to the elder Biden.
Information from the computer showed that Hunter had arranged meetings between his father and foreign moneymen from a variety of places, including Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
The laptop surrendered evidence that Hunter and Joe shared bank accounts and frequently paid each other’s bills. In an unearthed text message, the son complained that he was always forced to hand over half of his money to his father.
Social media shut down the dissemination of the story and the corporate media closed ranks to protect both Bidens.
They were given an easy tool to deflate the story when Politico printed a letter from over 50 “former intelligence officials” who wrote that the laptop seemed like a “Russian disinformation operation,” although they admitted they had never seen it and had no evidence of such a claim.
Many news outlets, including CBS, used that letter as justification for burying the story, despite the efforts of the Trump campaign, where I served as communications director.
Polls have shown that the election outcome may have been different if more people had known about the story before they voted.
So, what explains the CBS conversion more than two years later?
The most obvious trigger is that Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives in January, and they’ve made no secret that digging into Hunter Biden’s finances will be a priority. No doubt, the infamous laptop will be front-and-center.
Since they will be forced to report on the upcoming GOP investigations, the suits at CBS probably decided they needed to resemble a news organization that cares about the truth.
But it’s far too late for that because CBS’s credibility is already as extinct as the woolly mammoth in that old cartoon.
• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and the founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs, a communications consulting firm where he advises political candidates and corporate clients.