Joe Biden's campaign accused The New York Times of aiding a 'smear campaign' against him with its Ukraine coverage

Business Insider Politics 2 months ago

Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign accused The New York Times on Wednesday night of "actively participating" in a "smear campaign" against the candidate concerning its coverage of unfounded corruption allegations against Biden. 

The charges were detailed in a letter sent by Kate Bedingfield, Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director, to Dean Baquet, The Times' executive editor, which was first reported on by CNN's Oliver Darcy

The campaign specifically took issue with a May Times story concerning a push by Trump's allies to investigate Biden's involvement in the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor in 2016. The story covered unproven allegations that Biden had corruptly pushed for the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin while he was investigating a gas company that Biden's son, Hunter, sat on the board of. 

A co-author of the May story, freelancer Iuliia Mendel, took a job as the spokesperson for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky just a few weeks after The Times story was published.

Bedingfield called the story "an egregious act of journalistic malpractice."

The Times conceded in June that Mendel posed a "serious conflict of interest," and said the paper would not have worked with her had it known she was applying for the position. 

"Had she informed editors of her job application, they would not have given her that assignment, and we would have stopped working with her immediately given this serious conflict of interest," a spokesperson for the paper said in a June statement.

But The Times' editors stood by the reporting, calling the story "fair and accurate."

Biden's campaign accused the paper of lending credence to a baseless, "malicious" theory without sufficiently highlighting its holes. 

"What was especially troubling about the Times's active participation in this smear campaign is that prior to its reporting on the subject by Ken Vogel, this conspiracy had been relegated to the likes of Breitbart, Russian propaganda, and another conspiracy theorist, regular Hannity guest John Solomon," Bedingfield wrote. 

The campaign also criticized a Wednesday Times op-ed about the Bidens by conservative writer Peter Schweizer, who has long promoted the theory that the Bidens' dealings in Ukraine were corrupt. Bedingfield described Schweizer as a "discredited right-wing polemicist" who doesn't deserve The Times' powerful platform. 

Bedingfield called for The Times to "publicly answer for these failures" and re-hire a public editor. 

"Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks that accompany it?" she wrote. 

A spokesperson for The Times defended the paper's reporting on the Bidens and Ukraine as "fair and accurate" in a statement to CNN. The newspaper also stood by Schweizer's op-ed, saying, "The op-ed makes an argument that nonpartisan government watchdogs would make, arguing in favor of a law that would prohibit self-dealing by those with government connections."

Also on Wednesday, Biden announced his support for impeaching Trump, arguing that the president has repeatedly flouted the law. 

"No president in American history has ever dared to engage in such unimaginable behavior," he said during a campaign event in New Hampshire. "Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation, and committed impeachable acts." 

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