Commentary

'Wall Street Journal' Reporting Doesn't Refute Op-Ed Page

The Wall Street Journal last week published two accounts of Hunter Biden's business dealings in China that several media columnists described as contradictory. The common narrative is that its news reporting refuted the politically conservative op-ed page as part of a broader pattern of conflict.

Those claims are overblown. It's silly to assert that a newspaper's op-ed team needs to march in lockstep with the priorities of the newsroom because readers can't tell the difference between news and opinion. The confusion is more likely attributable to media outlets that run blatantly opinionated articles billed as "news analysis."

The most recent sign of a supposed civil war at the WSJ occurred last week, when columnist Kimberly Strassel on Friday analyzed the emails and text messages of Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Joe Biden's son. Later in the day, the WSJ's reporters covered Bobulinksi claims in a story that said its examination of business records didn't find any evidence that Joe Biden had an ownership interest in a company setup by Hunter and Bobulisnki.

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That detail was enough for media critics to trash Strassel's analysis, which never claimed that Joe Biden owned part of the company, only that Bobulinski's documents indicated that some kind of role was envisioned for Biden, such as a possible 10% interest in the venture. That "expectations" document was dated May 2017, when Biden was a private citizen and free to participate in any kind of business venture.

The more important point is that the WSJ's story supports the idea that Hunter's emails and texts are authentic, not part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Russia. Critics of the New York Post, which broke the story about the contents of a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, had said the emails and texts were part of a Russian plot. Bobulinski came forward to refute that idea.

The supposed conflict between the newsroom and the op-ed page followed a prior flare-up in June, when more than 280 staffers of the WSJ and Dow Jones sent a letter to the publisher claiming that factual inaccuracies on the op-ed page undermined the credibility of its reporting staff. That may be true, but the claims have nothing to do with the accuracy of Strassel's analysis, which no one has contested.

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