Robert Hunter Biden, who goes by his middle name Hunter, is the second son (opens in new tab) of 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Of the two sons (opens in new tab), (opens in new tab) Hunter has had the more varied life and career. He's always been a strong supporter of his father, but has also pursued his own career as a lobbyist, business owner, and international board member. That last role might be the aspect you're most familiar with: President Trump requested information from the Ukrainian government about Hunter's business dealing in the Ukraine (Hunter has denied any wrongdoing), and it resulted in an impeachment inquiry against Trump (opens in new tab). Hunter, who is in recovery and has spoken openly about a long history of addiction, has pursued a different path of late, and Joe has remained staunchly in support of his younger son.
Hunter has had his fair share of tragedy. When he was just two, his mom Neilia and his younger sister Naomi were killed in a car accident, and he was left critically injured, along with his older brother Beau. Beau suffered several broken bones and Hunter had a "severe" head injury. His father, seen below with Beau in bed, was sworn in at the hospital and traveled to Delaware from Washington, D.C., every day to be with them.
Joe's nickname "Amtrak Joe" (opens in new tab) resulted from the many, many train trips he took back and forth—every day for 36 years—to come home every night. Hunter is also a frequent commuter, and was nominated by President George W. Bush to a five-year-term (opens in new tab) on the Amtrak board.
Sadly, this wouldn't be the last time there was tragedy in the Biden family. In 2015, Hunter's older brother Beau died from brain cancer (opens in new tab) at the very young age of 46, leaving behind a wife and two children, one of whom is also named Hunter. Hunter and Beau had been very close (opens in new tab), particularly after the accident that robbed them of their mother and sister. Hunter has struggled with addiction for decades, and Beau had accompanied him to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in 2001.
Hunter became a lobbyist after graduating from Yale Law School, although he had early aspirations of being an artist. He worked as his father's deputy campaign manager, then began working in finance, although his support for his father and brother's political aspirations remained. "Beau and I have been there since we were carried in baskets during his first campaign,” he said. “We went everywhere with him. At every single major event and every small event that had to do with his political career, I was there. I’ve never missed a rally for my dad."
In 2007, after his father started his first bid for the White House, Hunter moved away from a career in lobbying. Hunter and his father didn't discuss his work, but he worried that it might cause problems all the same. "I wanted my father to have a clean slate," he said. "I didn’t want to limit him in any way." He has since founded and cofounded companies and served on several boards.
The recent impeachment inquiry against Trump centered around the president's request for the Ukrainian government to look into any potential wrongdoing by Hunter, who was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father and President Obama were working to address corruption in the country. Conspiracy theories about misconduct have been debunked (opens in new tab); Hunter admits (opens in new tab) that the decision to take the role was "poor judgment," even though he says he did nothing wrong. Hunter has since resigned from the board of BHR, a company in China (opens in new tab), to prevent the appearance of a conflict.
Joe has defended his son, saying, "No one has asserted my son did a single thing wrong. No one has asserted that I have done anything wrong except the lying president. That’s the only thing. That’s the focus."
Trump and other Republicans aren't necessarily backing down, though. Late September, Senate Republicans issued an 87-page report (opens in new tab) mainly on foreign business deals Hunter made during the Obama administration.
The report hasn't gained as much traction due to its inability "to find evidence that Obama administration policy was influenced by the younger Biden's job," according to the BBC (opens in new tab).
"Hunter Biden's position on Burisma's board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine," the report read, also adding that Biden family members "cashed in on Joe Biden's vice presidency." But its legitimacy with details like: "The extent to which Hunter Biden's role on Burisma's board affected US policy toward Ukraine is not clear."
"The Republican Chairmen's use of confidential Treasury documents to justify its unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks against Vice President Biden's family is grossly irresponsible," responded Democrats to the document, according to Politico (opens in new tab). "The information in the documents cited by the Republicans has not been verified, and we are not aware of any other Congressional committee ever releasing this sort of information in this manner."
Trump has voiced his annoyance with the lack of media coverage over the report. At a press conference at the White House on Sunday, he said (opens in new tab), "If we had a media that was fair even just reasonable this would be the biggest story for years and years. Then you'd be entitled to real Pulitzer Prizes, not the fake committee that gives away these fake awards."
At the first presidential debate, Trump's annoyance proved true when he brought up Hunter's "dishonorable discharge" from the military. Referencing an article from The Atlantic (opens in new tab) where Trump referred to Americans who died in war as "losers" and "suckers," Biden brought up his late son Beau."Speaking of my son, the way you talk about the military, the way you talk about them being losers and being suckers, my son was in Iraq," said Biden. "He spent a year there. He got the Bronze Star. He was not a loser. He was a patriot, and the people left behind were heroes."
NEW: Joe Biden defends his son after Trump's attacks "My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem. He's overtaken it. He's fixed it. He's worked on it, and I'm proud of him." pic.twitter.com/5aRWuoNmvASeptember 30, 2020
Unaware of which son Biden was referring to, Trump cut in to ask if he was referring to Beau or Hunter but not before ending with, "Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged, for cocaine use."
Biden responded to Trump's claim saying, "That is not true. My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem. He's overtaken it, he's fixed it, he's worked on it, and I'm proud of him."
While it is correct that Hunter did fail a drug test for cocaine in 2014 and had to leave the U.S. Navy, he wasn't dishonorably discharged. He received an administrative discharge, which is for less severe crimes. To be dishonorably discharged, it would from serious offenses like murder or sexual assault, which wasn't the case here.
"It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge," said Hunter in a statement (opens in new tab) at that time. "I respect the Navy's decision. With the love and support of my family, I'm moving forward."
Hunter's now living and working an artist, and says it's "literally keeping me sane." Recently, he's been in the news for another reason: A paternity suit revealed that he is the father of a child born in August 2018 and currently living in Arkansas. (Hunter had previously been married to Kathleen Buhle for two decades. They have three children together, and their split was apparently "acrimonious.") Hunter also had a brief relationship with Hallie Biden (opens in new tab), his brother Beau's widow, from 2016 to 2017 or early 2018. In May 2019 after "a weeklong courtship," Hunter married filmmaker Melissa Cohen. Their son was born in March 2020.
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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