President Trump’s re-election campaign Thursday accused NBC News of “actively running interference” for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter via a widely ridiculed report that critics feel was designed to dupe voters into thinking recent allegations that are harmful to the former vice president are simply part of a conspiracy.
NBC News published a lengthy story headlined, “How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge,” which debunked what it claimed to be a “fake ‘intelligence’ document” that painted the presidential hopeful's youngest son as a bad actor with ties to the Communist Party of China.
However, the Hunter Biden story that NBC News attempted to debunk is not the Hunter Biden story, according to the campaign.
Hunter Biden’s former business associate Tony Bobulinski -- who says he was once involved in a joint business venture with Hunter Biden and Jim Biden -- has come forward with documents, including emails and text messages, claiming that he met twice with former Vice President Joe Biden. Those claims conflict with the Democratic nominee's statements that he has had no involvement with, or discussions about, his family’s overseas business ventures.
Trump 2020 Communications Director Tim Murtaugh feels NBC News’ report is designed to confuse voters ahead of the election.
“NBC is trying to dupe you into thinking the Biden pay-to-play scandal has been debunked. It has not,” Murtaugh tweeted. “This NBC tweet is about a random document almost no one has seen. It’s not connected to what Bobulinski is accusing Joe Biden of. NBC is actively running interference for Biden.”
NBC News’ report did not even mention Bobulinski, instead focusing on a 64-page document with “questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing” that the Comcast-owned network claimed was used by “far-right influencers” to “baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.”
Bobulinski, in an interview with Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” said he raised concerns in 2017 to the former vice president's brother Jim Biden, about Joe Biden’s alleged ties to a possible joint venture with a Chinese energy firm.
Bobulinski, a retired lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, was the former CEO of SinoHawk Holdings, which he said was the partnership between the CEFC China Energy Company Chairman Ye Jianming and Jim and Hunter Biden.
“I remember saying, ‘How are you guys getting away with this?’ ‘Aren't you concerned?’” he told Carlson.
"'Plausible Deniability,' he said it directly to me in a cabana at the Peninsula Hotel,” Bobulinski said of Jim Biden.
Jim Biden is not mentioned in NBC News’ report, either. NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel wrote that the NBC News report has “zero relevance” when it comes to actual claims against Hunter Biden and she never heard of the document in question.
“I can say I have never seen this document, nor have I read anything quoting it. I can also say it, therefore, bears zero relevance on the legitimate evidence about Hunter Biden’s biz, via laptop and Bobulinski,” she wrote.
Bobulinski first became part of the bombshell story when The New York Post published details of a laptop computer that was allegedly once owned by Hunter Biden that contained emails addressed to Bobulinski.
NBC News reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny even managed to mention the now-infamous laptop throughout their report with seemingly out-of-place references.
“One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden's laptop, a fake ‘intelligence’ document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden's son and business in China,” Collins and Zadrozny wrote as the lead of their NBC News report.
Later in the report, NBC News mentioned a “leak of documents,” again referring to the laptop, but only indicate the document they attempted to debunk “preceded the leak by months,” chalking it all up to “a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.”
The misleading story was shared by some of NBC News’ most outspoken critics of the president, such as MSNBC primetime hosts Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow.
NBC News’ confusing report caught the eye of other media watchdogs who aren’t affiliated with the Trump campaign.
Fourth Watch editor Steve Krakauer tweeted, “This is pure journalistic sleight of hand gaslighting by NBC News,” and said the dossier debunked by NBC News has nothing to do with the Bobulinski scandal.
Radio host Ross Kaminsky feels the article was “designed to confuse the public” into thinking NBC debunked the actual Hunter Biden story.
“Story designed to confuse the public and willingly gullible reporters into thinking that the actual Hunter Biden emails are part of this fake thing. You don't have to think the Hunter story is very important to realize what's going on here,” Kaminsky wrote.
Author Max Abrahms called it “the most b.s. story” and urged readers not to fall for it.
“Don’t be duped by it. The Bidens’ corruption is not a ‘conspiracy theory.’ What NBC news has done is draw attention to a conspiracy theory nobody had ever heard of to make it seem to the uninitiated that this nonsense is what the fuss is all about,” Abrahms wrote.
The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway called it a “very weird” article.
“It's about how the purported author of a little-known dossier of Hunter Biden's problematic relationship with Communist China wasn't real. It talks to the guy who hosted the article and he says the info is real but the author is hiding his real identity,” Hemingway wrote. “The article authors don't even begin to analyze [the] substance of dossier, allegedly sourced to public documents. They claim it went viral but many (like myself) are learning about it for the first time tonight.”
Others took to Twitter with thoughts on NBC News' report:
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.