Several of the nation’s leading newspapers failed to thoroughly scrutinize a potentially major scandal involving a president’s close family member using influence in the White House to establish lucrative international business deals.
In this case, the person trying to enrich himself s is none other than former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose multibillion-dollar sweetheart deal with Saudi Arabia has gotten just a fraction of the attention devoted to baseless stories about Hunter Biden.
The contrast could not be clearer. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter never held any official role in the Obama or Biden administrations, but Republicans and their media allies are investigating his business dealings — including those conducted during a period in which it appeared as if his father had permanently retired from politics.
Jared Kushner, on the other hand, had an “unrealistically broad policy portfolio” in his father-in-law’s administration, ranging from health care to foreign policy. Kushner, who served as one of Trump’s closest White House advisers, even reportedly led the administration to its early determination to ignore the COVID-19 pandemic in Democratic-leaning states. And, contrary to Hunter Biden’s private sector work, Kushner’s current business ventures are happening as his father-in-law tries to lay the groundwork for a political comeback in 2024.
Saudi Arabia’s $2 Billion Investment In Kushner’s Firm Raises Serious Questions
Last Sunday, The New York Times reported that, just six months after leaving the White House in 2021, Kushner had secured a $2 billion investment from the Saudi Arabian government to capitalize his newly formed private equity firm Affinity Partners. In addition to comprising the majority of the firm’s initial portfolio, the deal will also pay $25 million in annual fees to Affinity.
Professional Saudi investment analysts had internally questioned the decision to inject capital into the Kushner-led venture, citing Kushner’s inexperience in private equity and the financial risks involved — only for the fund’s board headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the despotic heir apparent in Riyadh and a political ally of Kushner and Trump, to order that the deal should go ahead.
Documents also show Saudi investment fund staff explaining that the deal was made “to form a strategic relationship” with Kushner, rather than on the basis of its financial merit — an outright admission of a political relationship.
During the Trump administration, Kushner helped broker $110 billion in arms sales to the Saudi government, to assist in the ruthless Saudi military intervention in Yemen, while he also provided political cover to the regime after the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Times reported that ethics experts argue the deal “creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024.”
USA Today Rewrites Recent History To Scandalize Biden Family
By an eerie coincidence, USA Today also published last Sunday a profile of Valerie Biden Owens, the president’s sister, which appeared on the front page of Monday’s print edition under the headline “President's sister defends 'Joey,' Hunter.”
“Not since John F. Kennedy has a president been surrounded by such a large and close-knit clan, one that has been a source of both emotional support and political trouble for the commander in chief,” wrote the paper’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page. She further asserted, without a hint of irony, “For years, Donald Trump has hammered Joe Biden with accusations of corruption involving multimillion-dollar contracts that son Hunter and brother James won in China and Ukraine when Biden was vice president.”
Even if the Times hadn’t just published the story about Kushner’s deal with the Saudi regime, it would be simply astonishing that Page could write such dramatic statements about the perception of impropriety in the Biden family without acknowledging the well-known history of Trump’s children making millions in overseas business deals during his presidency.
Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner worked in the White House with direct access to sweeping policy portfolios, and Trump’s adult sons were involved with his political campaign while also ostensibly managing his business as his proxies. And, of course, Trump himself used the presidency to routinely patronize his hotels and resorts at government expense, siphoning millions in taxpayer dollars through his properties in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and even Scotland.
If Page wanted to tell a story about the president’s family serving as a source of “political trouble for the commander in chief,” her fixation on President Biden’s sister is a perplexing choice.
In the past five days, USA Today still has not published anything in its print edition about Kushner’s deal with the Saudi government.
Washington Post Pushes Republican Talking Points About Hunter Biden
Also last Sunday, The Washington Post’s print edition ran a story about Republican accusations against Hunter Biden, titled “Unraveling the tale of Hunter Biden and $3.5 million from Russia.” The story, which first appeared online two days earlier, made the mistake of prioritizing the misleading Republican attacks over explaining the truth of the matter.
For example, after opening with two accusatory quotes from Trump and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who had every reason to launder their political smear through the press, the article waited until seven paragraphs later to actually declare, “We found no evidence that Hunter Biden was part of those transactions.” So, what exactly was the news value of reprinting these Republican lies?
Two articles the Post published in response to the Times story about Kushner’s actual deal with the Saudis could have been useful counterweights to the Republican smear campaign currently targeting the president’s son.
Post staff writer Aaron Blake wrote an article titled, “After Trump’s contentious courtship of the Saudis, $2B for Jared Kushner,” which detailed how Kushner may have secured his financial backers through political favors. Furthermore, national correspondent Philip Bump also wrote a piece titled “You say a president’s relative is part of iffy international deals?” which confronted the right-wing fixation with Hunter Biden by juxtaposing it with the seemingly obvious corruption inherent in Kushner’s investment firm.
But, unfortunately, these articles appeared only online and not in the paper’s print edition, where prime real estate was reserved for rehashing attacks on Biden.
The Wall Street Journal Hammers “Hunter’s Laptop,” But Remains Silent On Jared
The Wall Street Journal, the quasi-respectable news operation of the Murdoch media empire, has not run any articles on Kushner’s business deals. However, opinion writer Holman W. Jenkins Jr. ran a column in Thursday’s print edition titled “Media Bias and Hunter’s Laptop,” with the somewhat ironic declaration, “The press won’t claw back its credibility until it admits why it buried the story.”
In the past, the Journal’s news side actually helped to debunk Republican accusations against Joe Biden regarding his son’s business deals, during the controversy over Trump’s attempted extortion of the Ukrainian government in an effort to create political dirt against the Biden family. However, the opinion side summarily ignored it at the time.
Media Matters searched articles in the Factiva database for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today for the term “Kushner” and any of the terms “Saudi,” “crown prince,” “Salman,” “billion,” or “fund” within the headline or lead paragraph from April 8, 2022, through April 13, 2022. We also searched articles in the Factiva database for the same newspapers for the term “Hunter” in the headline or lead paragraph during the same time period.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. Research contributions from Rob Savillo.