Donald Trump Jr. listened Wednesday night as Fox News host Sean Hannity scrutinized Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, suggesting the son of former vice president Joe Biden had opportunities in other countries only because “they’re really buying favor with the father.”
Trump Jr.'s Wednesday remarks sparked collective head-scratching and ridicule, but it’s a critique he and his brother Eric Trump have repeatedly voiced in recent days — much to the increasing annoyance of critics, including Comedy Central host Trevor Noah, who are vexed by the pair’s apparent lack of self-awareness.
“Now, let’s be clear, I’m not defending Hunter Biden,” Noah said on his show Wednesday. “All I’m saying is the last people who should be talking about the blurred lines of family names and political influence are the people currently running their home office from the White House.”
In a statement emailed to The Washington Post on Thursday, a spokesman for Trump Jr. pushed back against the criticisms calling them “nothing more than a straw man argument being used by Democrats and their friends in the media to protect Joe Biden’s failing presidential campaign.”
“Don isn’t attacking Hunter Biden because he has a famous father, he’s attacking him specifically for selling access to his father’s public office to enrich himself,” the statement said. “There’s a big difference between spending your entire life working your way up in a privately owned family business and leeching off the taxpayers to BECOME a family business based solely off your father’s political office.”
As President Trump continues to battle an impeachment inquiry linked to his dealings with Ukraine, conservatives have focused on the younger Biden’s foreign business connections — with Trump Jr. and Eric Trump emerging as two of the loudest voices. The Trumps’ latest attempts to ding Biden’s son over nepotism came not long after “Good Morning America” aired an interview with the 49-year-old on Tuesday amid ongoing allegations that he has benefited financially from his father’s influential position.
During the interview, Hunter Biden said it was “poor judgment,” but not unethical, to accept a paid position on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father was still vice president, and acknowledged “there’s a lot of things that wouldn’t have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden.”
On Wednesday, Noah praised Biden for recognizing his privilege.
“That’s how the world works,” he said. “A lot of people get opportunities because of who their parents are.”
The host noted he has even been able to take advantage of his last name.
“I know the only reason I got to where I am today is probably because my great-great-grandfather built the ark,” he joked. “I accept that.”
For the Trumps, however, Biden’s comments only fueled their belief that he had leveraged his father’s position in politics for financial gain.
“Dumpster fire at Biden HQ!” Trump Jr. tweeted on Tuesday.
Dumpster fire at Biden HQ! “It is impossible for me to be on any of the boards I just mentioned without saying that I’m the son of the vice president of the US. I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happen in my life that if my name wasn’t Biden” Hunter Biden— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 15, 2019
Critics on social media instantly cried foul.
“Dude your name is literally your dad’s full name,” one person tweeted.
Another person wrote, “Imagine being *this* lacking in self-awareness.”
Several people also pointed to past instances of the Trump family appearing to express favorable views toward nepotism.
“I like nepotism,” Trump told Larry King in 2006. “I think, you know, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, nepotism.’ Usually these are people without children. But I like nepotism.”
Eric Trump has also described nepotism as “kind of a factor of life,” later adding that it is a “beautiful thing,” the Hill reported in 2017.
In a Tuesday interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, Eric Trump stressed his family was not like the Bidens.
“The difference between us and Hunter is when my father became commander in chief of this country, we got out of all international business, right?” he said. “When his father became vice president of the United States, he got into international business.”
Trump Jr. echoed his brother’s remarks on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to say that I am not part of who I am because of my father. That would be foolish,” he told Hannity. “But the difference is, we did it as capitalists. We did it as businesspeople. We didn’t do it pretending and under the cloak of ‘Joe’s this great public servant, well here son, here’s every job you’ve ever had.’”
The Trumps, both top executives within the Trump Organization, say they stopped pursuing new foreign deals once their father became president, but they have continued to operate and promote family businesses overseas, the New York Times reported this month. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have also maintained their foreign business ties while serving as White House advisers, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote. On Monday, GQ published a lengthy article titled, “How Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump Have Profited Off Their Dad’s Presidency,” which included golf course and real estate deals among the family’s sources of income.
Trump Jr.'s comments did little to sway detractors on Wednesday, as a short clip of his interview quickly went viral. By early Thursday, the 26-second video had been viewed more than 1.25 million times.
“Local arsonist lectures on fire safety measures,” one person tweeted.