Perhaps Hunter, second son of the newly inaugurated 46th president of the United States Joe Biden, had no hint that his addiction to alcohol and drugs would be explored as cannons by ex-president Donald Trump to espouse his re-election campaign battle.
Desperate to retain power after a four-year reign fraught with un-presidential gaffes and actions, Trump threw darts at everything and everyone. Hunter wasn’t spared. As the frailties of human nature are universal, Hunter battled his stoically. He never faked that he had a cross to bear especially given his naked struggles with addiction. Trump’s verbal attacks and sneaky acts on Hunter weren’t perchance calculated to particularly strip him of honour. They were to dent his father’s image and present the then Democratic Party candidate as unworthy of presiding over the US based on his son’s assumed corruption in Ukraine.
Hunter’s alleged business deals in Ukraine and China were chiefly Trump’s gawk. From 2014 to 2019, Hunter was on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukraine-owned private gas firm. Trump and his allies accused Biden of using his position as the vice president to ex-president Barack Obama and the administration’s pointsman on US-Ukraine relations to leverage his son’s business interests in Ukraine. Trump also alleged that Biden called for the ouster of Ukrainian chief prosecutor said to be investigating Hunter for graft. Biden variously hotly deflated the straw man.
Towards Trump’s last electioneering, “Where’s Hunter?’’ became an unofficial catchword similar to the “Lock Her Up” version against Hilary Clinton, after the email saga thrown up during the 2016 presidential election. The voluble ex-president coined the “Where is Hunter?” slogan to deride the son of the US President following The New York Post report of alleged emails gleaned from a laptop Hunter purportedly left at a repair shop in Delaware. The newspaper claimed that the email disclosed how an adviser to the Ukraine private gas firm thanked Hunter for inviting him over to see his father in Washington DC. The claims were countered by the Bidens.
In what’s now known as the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory, the ex-president moulded the so-called corruption activities by father and son in the eastern European country. The allegations were however unproven even till Trump unceremoniously departed the White House on October 20 with his wife, Melania, hours before his successor’s inauguration.
The Fifty-year-old Hunter who is a lawyer, American lobbyist and investment advisor lost his mother and younger sister Naomi cruelly in an auto crash on December 18, 1972. He and his brother, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, were also badly injured in the accident.
In his married life, Hunter married Kathleen Buhle in 1993 and they have three daughters: Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy. The couple separated in 2015 and divorced in 2017. Hunter also dated Hallie, Beau’s widow in 2016. The relationship ended in 2019.
Love also led him to a South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen in May 2019. They have a son together. Hunter named their now less than nine-month old son Beau in honour of his late brother who was 46 years old at the time of his death.
Admitting his challenge with addiction, Hunter told the New Yorker, “Everybody faces pain, everybody has trauma. There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel—it’s a never-ending tunnel. You don’t get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it.”
Details emerged in 2019 that Trump had a phone call with the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, urging him to begin investigation of the Bidens. The development irked the Democrats which accused Trump of unlawfully putting pressure on Ukraine to dent the image of his political rival. It resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Amid the corruption allegations and Hunter’s drug addiction tenaciously pursued by Trump and his associates to weaken Biden’s son and subsequently truncate his political ambition, Biden had said at the presidential debate, “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. I’m proud of my son.”
Biden’s fatherly statement on his son was provoked by Trump’s outburst during the debate. The one-term president had said, “Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonourably discharged for cocaine use—he didn’t have a job until you became vice president, and once you became vice president, he made a fortune.”
Reports however noted that Hunter was not ‘dishonourably discharged’ from the military. This exposes another of the many lies Trump unashamedly told as a president. Hunter was said to have failed a drug test a month after he was commissioned into the Navy Reserves. He was thus administratively discharged in 2014. Though Hunter claimed that the situation was caused by the cigarettes he took from some smokers without knowing that they were laden with cocaine, he ruled out appealing the case considering his past struggles with drugs. Even in the face of a probe of the tax affairs of Hunter by the US attorney’s office in Delaware, Biden stood behind his son like the Rock of Gibraltar. He didn’t bat an eyelid and insisted that his political foes were masterminds of the case to get to him. Hunter’s struggles with substance abuse were reportedly on for years and he had been in and out of rehab centres. His drinking binge and helplessness with drugs were believed to have contributed hugely to his divorce from Kathleen with whom he had three children and married for 22 years. The death of his brother was also hard-hitting for him. Trump’s persistent attacks on Hunter to discredit the 78-year-old father who lost two children in tough circumstances must have further been particularly exigent for Biden during electioneering. He was faced with the task of presenting himself as a credible candidate for the office of the US president and defending Hunter against several groundless claims by Trump and his allies.