In his new memoir, Hunter Biden offers a candid look at his past addictions, his family history, and why he thinks he became a political punching bag for the MAGA movement.
“I became a proxy for Donald Trump’s fear that he wouldn’t be re-elected,” Mr Biden says bluntly in the book, Beautiful Things. In his telling, the former president pushed conspiracy theories about his work and dredged up embarrassing details of his past – all to get to his father.
“It was a predictable enough tactic,” Mr Biden writes. “I expected the president to get far more personal far earlier to exploit the demons and addictions I’ve dealt with for years.”
The second son of President Joe Biden, Hunter has struggled throughout his life with drug and alcohol addictions, including using crack cocaine. Mr Trump attempted to use his troubled history to hurt his electoral opponent in 2020, shaming him for his son’s addictions at a presidential debate and claiming his aides had unearthed Hunter’s old computer – the “laptop from hell” – full of embarrassing photos and documents.
The story, promoted by Trump allies like Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, was largely shunned by the mainstream news media, but it made Hunter Biden into a target of MAGA harassment – sometimes in person.
“Not long after” the story broke, Mr Biden writes, in an extract published by The Times, “supporters sporting Maga caps appeared outside the driveway gate of the private house I was renting in Los Angeles with my wife, Melissa, then five months pregnant.
“We called the police to shoo them away. Yet threats — including an anonymous text to one of my daughters at school, warning her that they knew where I lived — forced us to seek a safer address. Melissa was scared to death — for her, for us, for our baby.”
It was not the first time Mr Trump had gone after Hunter to get to Joe. In 2019, Mr Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr Biden’s work for Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. The younger Mr Biden had served on the company’s board when his father was vice president, and Mr Trump sought to portray this as a corrupt conflict of interest.
But the pressure campaign backfired. An anonymous whistleblower revealed Mr Trump’s browbeating to Congress, leading to his first impeachment.
By 2020, Hunter Biden had taken years of abuse from a US president and his legions of supporters. And yet, he says, it was not the worst time of his life.
That distinction belongs to the day his mother and baby sister were killed in a car accident – with him in the car – when he was just two years old. Mr Biden writes about the moment with disturbing clarity.
“I’m seated in the back of our roomy white Chevy station wagon, behind my mother. Beau is back there with me, behind Naomi,” his sister.
“Suddenly, I see my mother’s head turn to the right. I don’t remember anything else about her profile: the look in her eye, the expression of her mouth. Her head simply swings. At that same moment, my brother dives — or is hurtled — straight towards me.”
The car had been hit by a tractor trailer, killing his mother and sister almost instantly.
“The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital with Beau in the bed next to mine, bandaged and in traction. He’s mouthing three words to me, over and over: ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’”
Decades later, Beau Biden died of brain cancer at age 46. So Hunter appears to mean it when he says he’s endured worse things than the taunting of Trump supporters, who by 2020 were chanting “Where’s Hunter?” at the president’s rallies.
“Where’s Hunter? I’m right here,” Mr Biden answers. “I’ve faced and survived worse. I’ve known the extremes of success and ruin. With my mother and baby sister killed in a car accident when I was two, my father suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm and embolism in his forties, and my brother dying way too young from a horrible brain cancer, I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love.”