scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Hunter Biden does not belong at a White House state dinner

President Biden must realize this controversy is about things well beyond his relationship with his son.

Hunter Biden spoke with guests during a state dinner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the White House on June 22.DOUG MILLS/NYT

President Biden needs to have his eyes examined — and perhaps his head as well.

After all, he has demonstrated yet again that he has a massive blind spot when it comes to his son, Hunter. And that poor judgment has led to even worse optics.

Just two days after Hunter Biden received a no-prison plea deal that was sure to be the subject of heated debate, there he was parading around at the state dinner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, acting for all the world as though he were a well-respected Washington luminary rather than the clown prince of the capital’s buck-raking demimonde.


Worse for the White House, the event came even as news broke that two whistleblowers, one a well-regarded IRS investigator, have raised concerns that the Department of Justice’s long investigation into Hunter Biden had been politically impeded.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has staunchly denied that, saying that Delaware US Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee, had full and complete authority over the matter, something that Weiss himself had previously affirmed. Further, as outlets from The Wall Street Journal to Politico to NBC News have reported, the deal Hunter Biden received isn’t leniently out of line with how others have been treated in similar situations.

But given that the whistleblowers testified under oath to the House Ways and Means Committee, their allegations merit exploration. Meanwhile, the release of their behind-closed-doors testimony has guaranteed that Hunter’s plea deal won’t end the controversy over his business dealings.

Why not? Because of a politically menacing 2017 social media message that one of the whistleblowers disclosed, according to that testimony. The whistleblower claims that after writing that he was sitting with his father, then the former vice president, Hunter Biden warned a Chinese business associate that if he didn’t resolve a disagreement that evening, “I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.”


That WhatsApp communication does not establish that Hunter was indeed with his father at the time or, even if he was, that the elder Biden was aware of the missive. Still, this is a matter that needs to be addressed forthrightly by Biden or his spokespeople and not ducked or dodged, as has so far been the case.

For his part, Hunter Biden’s camp has essentially dismissed the communique as a product of his substance abuse problems. But that can’t be a blanket deflection for all concerns and questions. The newly revealed WhatsApp message must be seen for what it is: evidence of unsavory behavior by a troubled presidential scion who obviously made a career of trying to surf his father’s coattails to fortune. It is a gift to Republicans hoping to turn Hunter into a 2024 campaign issue.

Given all that, Hunter Biden obviously shouldn’t be appearing at official White House functions as though he is some kind of important unofficial adviser to his father.

“It was bad judgment,” said veteran Democratic political consultant Neil Oxman. “It is one thing for his son to come to the White House for personal stuff and visit his parents, but … there is absolutely no reason he should be at a state dinner.”


Yes, a parent should support a son or daughter in recovery, but père Biden must also realize that the state dinner controversy is about things far beyond his relationship with Hunter. Footage of the president’s fresh-off-a-plea-deal son hobnobbing with top administration and foreign officials are an albatross for all Democrats, who then have to field questions about appropriateness.

If Hunter Biden were responsibly self-aware, he would realize as much. But then, a responsibly self-aware son would never have signed onto the board of Ukraine energy company Burisma, for a reported sum of some $50,000 a month. Nor would he have engineered an arrangement that lets political fawners and favor-seekers buy his mediocre paintings for sums far above what they would command were his last name not Biden. He’s a nepotistic political offspring intent on capitalizing on his famous name.

If he can’t exercise proper judgment, then someone else must.

If only James Biden were a Dutch uncle rather than an enabling one, he might be the one. But as his own business history demonstrates, he also seems intent on taking advantage of Joe Biden’s prominence.

That really only leaves one person: The Biden who actually occupies the White House.

The time is long past due to get a clue, Mr. President.


Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @GlobeScotLehigh.