Hunter Biden’s Laptop, Revealed by New York Post, Comes Back to Haunt Him

When The New York Post first reported in 2020 about a laptop once used by Hunter Biden — which the paper said contained incriminating evidence against him and his father, Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was running for president — it set off a firestorm.

Many national news outlets raised questions about the existence of the laptop and the claims about its contents, while major social media platforms limited posts about The Post’s coverage. Conservatives said those reactions were evidence of liberal censorship.

Many of the claims made by The Post in its coverage of the laptop, in which the publication sought to link President Biden to corrupt business dealings, have not been proved. But the laptop had enough incriminating evidence to continue to haunt Hunter Biden.

The laptop and some of its contents played a visible role in federal prosecutors’ case against the president’s son, who was charged with lying on a firearm application in 2018 by not disclosing his drug use. A prosecutor briefly held up the laptop before the jury in Delaware, and an F.B.I. agent later testified that messages and photos on it and in personal data that Mr. Biden had saved in cloud computing servers had made his drug use clear.

On Tuesday, the jury found Mr. Biden, 54, guilty of three felony charges. He will be sentenced at later date.

A copy of the hard drive from the laptop, a silver Apple MacBook Pro that Mr. Biden accidentally left at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Del., was turned over to The Post by Rudolph W. Giuliani, an ally of Donald J. Trump, who was president at the time.

The Post first reported on the existence of the laptop on Oct. 14, 2020, less than a month before the presidential election. In a front-page article, The Post wrote that the laptop contained emails that it described as a “smoking gun” showing corruption in the Biden family, including correspondence that appeared to describe a meeting that Mr. Biden had arranged between his father and a Ukrainian businessman when his father was vice president.

Questions were raised immediately after The Post published its article, including about the legitimacy of the laptop. Facebook and Twitter restricted the distribution of links to The Post’s article, saying fact checkers needed to verify the claims before they could be shared. Several days later, more than 50 former intelligence officials signed a letter claiming that the emails had “the classic earmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.”

Even inside the newsroom of The Post, whose coverage is often pro-Trump, some reporters and editors had initial doubts about the laptop. The journalist who wrote most of The Post’s first article on the laptop withheld his byline because of his concerns about the article, The New York Times reported at the time. Mr. Giuliani said he had given the laptop to The Post because “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.”

The Wall Street Journal, which like The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, was approached in 2020 by Mr. Trump’s allies but passed on covering the laptop, The Times also reported.

Since then, the existence of the device, and the authenticity of some of the material it contained, have been confirmed by multiple media outlets. But The Post’s extensive and continuing reporting claiming irrefutable ties between messages on the laptop and alleged corrupt foreign business dealings by President Biden have not stood up to scrutiny.

On Tuesday, a New York Post spokeswoman pointed to multiple editorials about the laptop published by the paper, including one, from June 6, that slammed news outlets. They dismissed The Post’s original coverage as “Russian disinformation” at the time, the editorial said, “yet now that Joe Biden’s own Justice Department has introduced the laptop as evidence in Hunter’s gun trial, outlets are readily discussing the story as if they’d never denied it at all.”

Sohrab Ahmari, who was the opinion editor at The Post at the time of the first laptop article, said in an interview that the behavior of much of the mainstream media in covering the story was “shameful.”

Mr. Ahmari, who left The Post in 2021 to co-found an online political magazine, Compact, which is often critical of Mr. Trump, was not involved with the reporting or editing of The Post’s laptop coverage. But he criticized many media outlets for what he saw as cheering on a “rush to censorship” by social media platforms.

“Whatever you think of The Post’s politics, the responsibility of other journalists is to do their own reporting,” he said.