Article of the Day: October 24, 2020–Wall Street Journal is at War…with itself

A Wall Street Journal columnist said Joe Biden was part of Hunter’s business deal. Hours later, its news reporters said the opposite.

Paul Farhi

The News Corp. building in Manhattan is home to Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.
The News Corp. building in Manhattan is home to Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

Readers of the Wall Street Journal may have felt a bit of whiplash on Thursday over a news story and an opinion column that presented sharply conflicting accounts of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s alleged role in one of his son’s business ventures.

The Journal column — hailed as a bombshell before the final presidential debate by Biden critics, including President Trump — asserted that Biden was involved in a deal arranged by his son Hunter with a Chinese energy conglomerate in 2017.

Columnist Kimberley Strassel relied on the account of Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, who provided documents that “suggest Hunter was cashing in on the Biden name and that Joe Biden was involved.”

But a few hours after Strassel’s column was published, the Journal’s news side offered a much different take.

“The venture . . . never received proposed funds from the Chinese company or completed any deals, according to people familiar with the matter,” Journal reporters Andrew Duehren and James Areddy wrote. “Corporate records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden.” The reporters also quoted another partner in the venture, James Gilliar, who said he was “unaware of any involvement at anytime of the former vice president.”

Biden has long denied that he ever had foreign business dealings with his son, and there is no evidence beyond Bobulinski’s assertions. Trump himself has faced questions about foreign business interests while serving as president.

Dueling accounts from the same publication about a major news story are rare. Also unusual: Opinion columnists typically don’t attempt to break news. Large, mainstream news organizations such as the Journal manage their news-reporting and opinion operations separately. The Journal’s news side is under editor in chief Matthew Murray; Paul A. Gigot is editor of its editorial page.

In the Journal’s case, there’s an ongoing civil war between its news staff and its opinion side, as well as a wider war among news organizations controlled by the family of media baron Rupert Murdoch.

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In July, more than 280 employees at the Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones, protested what they said was the spread of “misinformation” by the paper’s opinion pages. “Opinion’s lack of fact-checking and transparency, and its apparent disregard for evidence, undermine our readers’ trust and our ability to gain credibility with sources,” the employees wrote to new publisher Almar Latour. “Many readers already cannot tell the difference between reporting and Opinion. And from those who know of the divide, reporters nonetheless face questions about the Journal’s accuracy and fairness because of errors published in opinion.”

The letter cited a column by Vice President Pence in which he asserted that concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections were “overblown.”

In response, the editorial board posted “A Note to Readers,” in which it vowed that its writers “won’t wilt under cancel-culture pressure.”

Strassel is a prominent conservative writer who is a member of the Journal’s editorial board and a Fox News contributor. She is the author of a book published last year titled “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America.” Trump publicly praised her book and has retweeted her comments dozens of times.

Her Thursday column on the Bidens — titled “The Biden ‘Family Legacy’” — was republished by, but the Journal’s news story on the same topic was not.

Fox News’s opinion hosts have aggressively pushed allegations of corruption involving Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company. New allegations were reported last week by the New York Post, which cited emails from a laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden.

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Joe Biden’s campaign has denied the allegations, which have been promoted by Trump allies Stephen K. Bannon and Rudolph W. Giuliani and embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign. On Thursday, Trump sought to highlight the allegations by inviting Bobulinski to the presidential debate in Nashville.

The Washington Post has been unable to independently verify the emails or to obtain a copy of the hard drive that Bannon and Giuliani allege was owned by Hunter Biden. News accounts have said the Ukrainian allegations against Biden are part of a disinformation campaign by Russian intelligence agents to boost Trump’s reelection.

The New York Post, Journal and Fox News are all owned by companies in which Murdoch and his family are the controlling shareholders.

Neither Strassel nor Wall Street Journal editor Murray responded to requests for comment.

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