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Biden campaign slams New York Times for op-ed by conservative author behind Ukraine claims

A police officer stands guard outside the New York Times building in New York last year. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

As President Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at former vice president Joe Biden and his son, he’s often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer. So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about Biden and his son Hunter, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign cried foul.

In a letter sent to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Biden’s campaign called Schweizer a “discredited right-wing polemicist” and suggested the op-ed was part of a larger pattern of “journalistic malpractice.”

“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?” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, wrote in the Wednesday letter, which was posted by CNN’s Oliver Darcy.

The Times defended its work in a statement sent to The Washington Post, noting that the opinion section operates separately from editorial news coverage of the Democratic candidate.

“Our coverage of the Biden campaign and Hunter Biden has been fair and accurate,” a spokesperson said, adding that the paper “will continue to cover Joe Biden with the same tough and fair standards we apply to every candidate in the race.”

Schweizer didn’t immediately respond to messages sent to his spokesperson and to Breitbart News, where he is a senior contributor.

Biden’s complaint to the Times comes amid a larger push against what his campaign argues is rampant misinformation. Earlier on Wednesday, Facebook rejected a plea from Biden to take down a 30-second Trump campaign ad that CNN refused to air because it made false claims about the former vice president. Biden made a similar request to Twitter, which has yet to respond.

Trump’s near-daily attempts to tie Biden to corrupt dealings in Ukraine and China are at the center of that battle — and both allegations have roots in Schweizer’s work. Schweizer, who is also president of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit founded by former Breitbart executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon, helped push the Uranium One allegations against Hillary Clinton.

In his 2018 book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” Schweizer first tied Hunter Biden’s role as a board member on a Ukrainian natural gas company to his father’s efforts to oust a prosecutor there, Bloomberg News reported. A House impeachment inquiry has now begun into Trump’s efforts to persuade Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden over that allegation.

Schweizer’s 2018 book is also the source of repeated claims by Trump that Hunter Biden made $1.5 billion in corrupt dealings with China, which The Washington Post’s Fact Checker called “false.”

Trump’s false claims about Hunter Biden’s China dealings

The Times op-ed on Wednesday, which identifies Schweizer as “an investigative journalist,” ran under the headline “What Hunter Biden Did Was Legal — And That’s the Problem.” He argues that the vice president’s son used his father’s influence to make money in Ukraine and China, and that Washington should pass tougher financial disclosure laws for politicians’ relatives.

In his letter to the Times, Biden’s campaign complains that the piece makes “more malicious claims about the Biden family.”

“Despite voluminous work done by the independent press and fact-checkers — including some by The Times — to refute the heinous conspiracy theory that Donald Trump attempted to bully Ukraine into propping-up for him, the paper ran an op-ed by none other than Peter Schweizer, making more malicious claims about the Biden family,” Bedingfield wrote in the letter.

In the statement, the Times spokesman defended the decision to run the op-ed, which also takes aim at alleged profiteering by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) through his own ties to China.

“It was published by Opinion where their mission is to invite intelligent discussion on a range of opinions and ideas,” the spokesperson said. “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.”