Joe Biden — the two-term vice president and a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful — opened up about his son Hunter’s struggle with mental health in a CNN interview broadcast Monday evening.
“Hunter is my heart‚” Biden said, referring to his son, 49. “And Hunter has been through some tough times, but he’s fighting. He’s never given up. He’s the most honorable, decent person I know.”
Hunter Biden’s setbacks have also become a point of scrutiny. He candidly discussed them for a story published by the New Yorker last week. He said he assumed his history would be aired during the presidential race, and, he told the New Yorker, he wanted to preempt circulation of piecemeal stories that would reflect poorly on his father.
“Look, everybody faces pain,” Hunter said. “Everybody has trauma. There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel — it’s a never-ending tunnel. You don’t get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it.”
Hunter’s battle with addiction and mental health date back to high school and his studies at Georgetown University. Over the last 15 years, he has checked into and out of rehabilitation centers; the New Yorker report detailed at least five stays at inpatient and outpatient programs, before and after his brother Beau died from brain cancer in 2015. Hunter was also discharged from the Navy after testing positive for cocaine and had a run-in with Arizona state law enforcement after a crack pipe and cocaine residue were discovered inside a Hertz rental car he drove. There was no evidence Hunter had used the pipe, so prosecutors did not pursue narcotics charges, according to the article.
Joe Biden has stood by his son throughout. Now, he continues to do the same.
“I am confident, confident, he’s going to make it,” the former vice president said.
His wife, Jill Biden, who also participated in the interview, added, “We’ve seen the struggle and we know that most American families are dealing with some sort of struggle like we are. And I think they can relate to us as, you know, parents who are hopeful and are supportive of our son.”
Joe Biden said he did not know about the New Yorker article before publication and told CNN host Chris Cuomo “it took enormous courage.”
“Everybody has to deal with these issues in a way that is consistent with who they are and what they are,” he said to Cuomo, who pointed out that discussing mental health issues as beatable and treatable is “a different dialogue than we’re used to hearing”
Biden agreed, noting what he said was the inanity of treating mental and physical health as somehow distinct.
“It’s health,” he said, adding that when the Obama White House “made parity between mental health and physical health” by developing the Affordable Care Act, “it was a fundamental breakthrough in how we thought about how things should work.”