‘People have real questions about this’: Hunter-Ukraine questions cloud Biden tour
The former veep still hasn’t found a clear and cogent message when it comes to his son’s overseas business dealings.
Joe Biden has two methods of responding to questions about his son’s controversial business dealings in Ukraine: denial and anger.
But so far, Biden doesn’t have a clear and cogent message — and Iowa voters are starting to take notice, especially after his fiery encounter Thursday with a retired farmer who advanced the unfounded claim that the former vice president played a role in landing his son a job at a Ukrainian gas company.
Biden was forced Friday to address the confrontation, in which he had called the voter a “damn liar,” and even challenged him to a physical fitness contest after the 83-year-old man said the 77-year-old Biden was “too damn old” to be president.
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“I probably shouldn’t have challenged him to pushups,” Biden told reporters when asked about the run-in.
But he denied that Iowans want to talk to him about his son Hunter Biden’s overseas business deals.
“We’ve had over 2,000 people show up on this bus trip and no one has done it except that fella,” Biden told reporters briefly after an event Friday morning in Cedar Rapids. “It’s going to be part of what is the opposition’s case, ‘You’ve done a bad thing to so and so.’ It’s just not true. Trump’s already spending 12 million bucks to try to make the same message. And there’s nothing to the message.”
The problem for some, however, isn’t the president’s attacks — which many Democrats dismiss out of hand. It’s Biden’s response.
To voters like Carol Wickey, a 78-year-old Cedar Rapids Democrat who is undecided in the race and attended a Biden event in her hometown, the candidate isn’t explaining enough.
“He needs to be prepared to answer questions about it. And I don’t think he is. I don’t think he’s come up with an answer,” she said. “Loving his kid to death and not doing anything wrong is not an answer. And I, as someone who thinks he’s a really decent human being, when I first started hearing about the Hunter connection, it bothered me. I wanted an answer because it doesn’t look good. It’s a bad perception.”
Democratic voter Ann Gibny said she didn’t like Biden’s exchange and said he should explain more about Hunter.
“He shouldn’t act like Trump. We don’t need that,” she said. “I don’t like what Trump is doing at all [concerning his unproven claims about Hunter Biden and Ukraine], but some people have real questions about this and he needs to respect that.”
In his most-extensive remarks yet with reporters about his son, Biden addressed the concerns Friday evening by pointing to an October ABC interview with his son where he expressed regret.
“Hunter Biden spoke publicly about it,” Joe Biden said. “He said that in retrospect if he had thought about what was going to happen — how it was going to be handled by Giuliani and company — he wouldn’t have done it. Nothing he did [was] wrong. The appearance looked bad. And he acknowledged it. And that’s it. That’s all I’m going to talk about.”
Asked if he shared his son’s view about how “the appearance looked bad,” Biden wouldn’t say.
“I’m not going to comment on anything other than that my son speaks for himself. He’s a 47-year-old man,” Biden said. “He didn’t do a single thing that was illegal or wrong. He didn’t like the way it appeared.”
Until now, the campaign and candidate have met questions about Hunter’s lucrative business arrangements with flat-out denials — sometimes to questions that are accurate — or efforts to shut down questions about it.
But the limits of that approach became clear in a Wednesday interview with Telemundo host and reporter José Díaz-Balart during a discussion about Ukraine.
“Your son did make a lot of money there,” Díaz-Balart said.
“No,” Biden cut him off, as Díaz-Balart pointed out that Hunter Biden earned between $50,000 and $80,000 a month at one point.
“No,” Biden said again.
Díaz-Balart then asked if the arrangement was “wrong.”
“No,” Biden said. “There is nothing to [the allegation] that he did anything that was illegal. Nothing.”
Díaz-Balart then noted that he wasn’t talking about legality but propriety.