Rudolph W. Giuliani is perhaps the last person you’d expect to fashion a definition of journalism. But the personal attorney for President Trump stumbled into a pretty good one over the weekend, after steering some sketchy materials to the New York Post in an effort to besmirch Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Asked why he’d chosen the Post, Giuliani told the New York Times, "either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.”

Well, we wouldn’t want that!

Some news outlets view a trove of stolen emails and photographs as the starting point for an investigation; other news outlets view the same material as something worthy of nearly immediate publication. The New York Post falls into the latter category, much to the glee of Giuliani and his comrade-in-dirt Stephen K. Bannon.

Both of those fellows were credited as sources in last Wednesday’s much-discussed story, with the headline “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad.” The email cited in the story “revealed” no such thing: It showed merely that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, had thanked Hunter Biden for “giving an opportunity to meet your father.” The Biden campaign says the official schedules of then-Vice President Biden show no such meeting.

Ukraine has become Giuliani’s stomping grounds. In early 2019, the former New York mayor, along with former Hill contributor John Solomon, started spreading bogus allegations that Democrats tried to encourage Ukrainian intervention in the 2016 election, and that Biden, who took a lead role on Ukraine policy as vice president, had performed favors for his son, who in 2014 joined the board of Burisma. While there’s no question that Hunter Biden being employed by Burisma while his dad was crafting U.S. foreign policy was sleazy and worthy of investigation, both of Giuliani’s notions have been firmly discredited.

Like all slapdash political scandal stories, the New York Post’s version leaves the reader with more questions than answers: Did this “opportunity” turn into an actual meeting? What, precisely, was the role of Pozharskyi? What was he working on? What of the computer that the email was recovered from? (It was dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop and supposedly belongs to Hunter Biden.) And what did the New York Post know about all this?

Not enough to satisfy New York Post journalists, apparently. As reported by Katie Robertson of the New York Times, the story’s main author, veteran staffer Bruce Golding, declined to attach his byline to the piece over credibility concerns, as did at least one colleague. According to the Times, one of the bylined authors — Gabrielle Fonrouge — learned that she’d been credited only after the story was published. The other by-line belongs to Emma-Jo Morris, who had no previous New York Post bylines and formerly worked for Fox News propaganda program “Hannity.”

A New York Post spokeswoman passes along this statement: “The story was vetted, and the Post stands by its reporting.” The spokeswoman also says Fonrouge was “in no way surprised to see her byline on the story.” Whatever the New York Post and its critics say, Twitter overreacted in clumsy and suppressive fashion when it blocked links to the piece.

Unwillingness to take ownership of the story may explain a screwy situation from last Wednesday night. Fox News host Tucker Carlson — usurper of all things negative about Joe Biden — wanted to celebrate the New York Post email story. But neither of the bylined reporters appeared for a victory lap. Instead, Carlson welcomed Miranda Devine, a columnist at the paper who had no byline on the piece — though she did write a column supporting it.

In promoting the piece, Devine brought up a series of photos featured in the story. “And, you know, we also have published photographs. One of the photographs that we published today shows Hunter Biden asleep with a crack pipe in his mouth,” said Devine. “Now, we didn’t publish that gratuitously. We published it as an illustration of how strange it is that these overseas companies, these foreign entities, would pay Hunter Biden millions of dollars, someone who has an admitted drug problem. And there are other photographs like that on this laptop spanning over five years.”

Of course they published that gratuitously. Grim and embarrassing pictures of Hunter Biden were hardly necessary to prove any of the points that Devine deemed so newsworthy. His drug problems? They’ve been documented exhaustively, including in the pages of the New York Post, the New Yorker and beyond. Which is to say, there’s no journalistic need to illustrate his problems. There’s just a tabloid’s inclination toward cruelty.

It’s an inclination abetted by one of its sources, too. In a Monday morning appearance on Fox Business Network, Giuliani harped on Hunter Biden’s drug problem. “When you see Hunter Biden next to Barack Obama, I’ll give you a picture of Hunter Biden in a crack den three days later,” said Giuliani, who called Hunter Biden a “completely degenerate crack addict.”

Host Maria Bartiromo expressed misgivings about Giuliani’s drug attacks. “I’d rather not focus on the drug part of this because people have problems, he obviously has problems, that’s his problem. I wish him well,” said Bartiromo. That was a humane request that Giuliani couldn’t abide: "I can’t put the drugs aside, Maria,” said Giuliani. That’s the cruel fellow driving all of this.

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