Joe Biden’s presidential campaign renewed its public feud with The New York Times on Wednesday in protest of its coverage of the Ukraine scandal.
In a letter sent to Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield blasted The Times for lending legitimacy to an unfounded conspiracy theory which alleged Biden used his position to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor who was supposedly investigating Biden’s son, Hunter. The since-debunked theory continues to be promoted by President Donald Trump and his allies as they seek to deflect attention from the rapidly intensifying impeachment inquiry House Democrats.
Bedingfield also criticized The Times for publishing an op-ed written by conservative writer Peter Schweizer, who published a series of unverified corruption allegations against Bill and Hillary Clinton in 2015. In his op-ed, Schweizer argued that Hunter Biden’s conduct, while perfectly legal, was ethically questionable and called for stricter financial disclosure and ethics laws to curb politicians from “self-dealing.”
Referring to Schweizer as a “discredited right-wing polemicist,” Bedingfield slammed The Times for publishing “malicious claims” about the Bidens at a time when reporters have repeatedly stressed that the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory is entirely unfounded.
“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?” Bedingfield asked.
On Thursday, Schweizer defended the op-ed, claiming that The Times had asked him to write the piece and that “every word” had been fact checked prior to publication.
Meanwhile, The Times refused to apologize for publishing the op-ed, saying in a statement that its coverage of the Bidens was “fair and accurate.”
“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,” a Times spokesperson said.
“[We] will continue to cover Joe Biden with the same tough and fair standards we apply to every candidate in the race,” the spokesperson added.
The Biden campaign also sent letters to Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, demanding that they not run an ad that falsely alleges corruption against Biden. While CNN refused to air the ad, Facebook denied the request, and Twitter did not respond.
On Wednesday, Biden’s press secretary TJ Ducklo responded, saying, “whether it originates from the Kremlin or Trump Tower, these lies and conspiracy theories threaten to undermine the integrity of our elections in America.”
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The Biden campaign’s “in-your-face approach” to dealing with the media comes as advisors are desperate to avoid a repeat of Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, which developed a life of its own and cast a cloud over her candidacy for the entire race.
One Biden advisor told Politico, “you saw what happened to Hillary in 2016 with all of the ridiculous coverage about her emails. That’s not going to happen with us. We learned.”
The adversarial stance against the media also helps Biden’s image of being a “fighter,” according to Ben LaBolt, a former advisor to President Barack Obama.
“It’s great primary politics — especially when voices on the left accused Biden of being too cautious or centrist in his views — to challenge FOX. It demonstrated Biden’s strength,” LaBolt said.
Biden’s recent attacks against The Times come as both his and Senator Bernie Sanders’ support in the polls have stagnated, while Senator Elizabeth Warren has steadily gained support. And according to recent fundraising numbers, Warren and Sanders each raised roughly $10 million more than Biden during the third financial quarter.