NPR admitted to making a major error in its coverage of Hunter Biden on Thursday, walking back a claim that news reports of information found on Biden’s alleged laptop were “discredited.”
The outlet, which is funded by taxpayer money, issued a correction to a March 31 review of Biden’s new memoir, “Beautiful Things.” The story originally claimed that news reports citing information found on a laptop Biden had allegedly dropped off at a Delaware computer store in 2019 were “discredited” by news outlets and experts.
“A previous version of this story said U.S. intelligence had discredited the laptop story. U.S. intelligence officials have not made a statement to that effect,” the correction says.
The outlet also edited a paragraph in the middle of the review on Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, and his attempts to spotlight Biden’s history of drug abuse and questionable overseas business dealings. The initial version of the story read:
The last gasp of Giuliani’s campaign against the Bidens featured a laptop supposedly obtained from sources that would document the younger Biden’s drug use and other offenses. The laptop story was discredited by U.S. intelligence and independent investigations by news organizations.
The updated version of the story has removed the reference to U.S. intelligence officials and now says:
The last gasp of Giuliani’s campaign against the Bidens featured a laptop supposedly obtained from sources that would document the younger Biden’s drug use and other offenses. Numerous news organizations cast doubt on the credibility of the laptop story.
Biden himself has not challenged the authenticity of the laptop in question. In an interview with CBS News set to air on April 4, Biden admits that the laptop at the center of a series of October stories on his business dealings and other affairs “certainly” could be his. CBS News released a clip of the interview on Friday morning.
“For real, I don’t know. I really don’t know what the answer is. That’s the truthful answer,” Biden said, referring to his alleged laptop. “Of course, certainly [it could have been my laptop]. There could be a laptop out there that was stolen from me. It could be I was hacked. It could be that it was Russian intelligence.”
NPR participated in a media and big tech blackout of news coverage on Biden’s laptop in the run-up to the 2020 election as a flurry of stories on Biden’s overseas business dealings broke in October, weeks before the election. On Oct. 22, NPR’s managing editor for news Terence Samuels put out a statement addressing questions over the outlet’s lack of coverage on Biden.
“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,” Samuels said.
Along with NPR, other outlets journalists, pundits, and experts dismissed the Biden laptop stories as potential Russian disinformation. Facebook limited the stories’ reach under the guise of fact-checking the claims. Twitter claimed that the stories violated the platform’s rules against hacked materials, which CEO Jack Dorsey later said was the “wrong” decision.