The demonization of United States President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was brought to the national political stage by Donald Trump in September 2020, helping proliferate its weaponization online — which continued into Biden’s presidency.
Trump, who was president at the time, attacked the younger Biden during his first debate against Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden. The exchange began when the former U.S. vice-president attacked Trump over reports that he referred to deceased military servicemembers as “losers” and “suckers.” Biden said:
Speaking of my son, the way you talk about the military, the way you talk about them being losers and being, and, and, and just being suckers. My son was in Iraq. He spent a year there. He got, he got the Bronze Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot and the people left behind, there, were heroes.
“Are you talking Hunter, are you talking about Hunter,” Trump asked.
When Biden clarified that he was referring to his son Beau, Trump replied: “I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter. Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged.”
“That’s not true,” Biden replied. “He wasn’t dishonorably discharged.”
As has often been the case between the two men, the elder Biden was correct in calling out Trump’s lie; Hunter Biden was discharged from the U.S. Navy in October 2014 for testing positive for cocaine. But in this case it was an administrative discharge, which did not carry any punitive charges. As the shared military service VetVerify has explained, dishonorable discharges are closer to what the military defines as Bad Conduct Discharges (BCD):
A dishonorable discharge (DD), like a BCD, is a punitive discharge rather than an administrative discharge. It can only be handed down to an enlisted member by a general court-martial. Dishonorable discharges are handed down for what the military considers the most reprehensible conduct. This type of discharge may be rendered only by conviction at a general court-martial for serious offenses (e.g., desertion, sexual assault, murder, etc.) that call for dishonorable discharge as part of the sentence.
“My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Joe Biden would go on to say during the debate. “He’s overtaken it, he’s fixed it, he’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him.”
We had previously spotted online attacks on Hunter Biden in March 2018, more than two years before the incident at the debate; they likely surfaced in response to Biden (at the time a candidate for the Democratic nomination) saying that in high school he would have “taken [Trump] behind the gym and beaten the hell out of him.”
Following Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election, right-wing lawmakers have continuously targeted his son in a push to show what they claim is “corruption” within his administration, even though no evidence of that been revealed.
Update 6/14/2023, 2:04 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag