When Joe Biden first launched his presidential bid, inquiries about his son, Hunter, were so taboo they were met with the full fury of the campaign.
“Ask the right question!” Biden snapped at a reporter early in the campaign who asked about Hunter Biden’s business interests in Ukraine.
Now, it’s the president’s son who is revealing his own story — and, along the way, opening himself up for more scrutiny — just as his father’s presidency is taking hold.
Hunter Biden’s new memoir, “Beautiful Things,” to be released April 6, details his struggles with addiction. It comes out after a bruising presidential campaign in which Hunter was the focus of attacks by conservatives, including from former President Donald Trump himself at the first presidential debate.
It also comes as Hunter Biden is under federal investigation for his tax affairs. And though he is taking on a higher public profile just as that legal drama heats up, the Biden family on Thursday said they stood by his decision to pen the book.
“The shared feeling is that telling this story takes a hell of a lot of strength and courage,” said a close Biden ally. “And right now when [the American public’s] substance use has increased during the coronavirus outbreak and when so many families are feeling the pain of the opioid epidemic, this is especially meaningful and could help others find the support they need. “
Just this Wednesday, Biden mentioned to lawmakers the rise in addictions during the pandemic as one reason to move swiftly on a massive Covid-19 relief package.
Though a story of overcoming addiction may be suited for the age of Covid, Hunter Biden sought the book deal well before the pandemic. Two people with knowledge of the events say he’d been looking to pen a memoir for years.
Still, it was a well-kept secret. As he began shopping the book around, his agents took extensive steps to keep the news from leaking. A publisher approached about the project early on declined to comment on the behind-the-scenes book shopping, citing a non-disclosure agreement. A Simon & Schuster representative said the publisher inked the deal with Hunter Biden in the fall of 2019. The Associated Press first reported news of the memoir.
“We admire our son Hunter’s strength and courage to talk openly about his addiction so that others might see themselves in his journey and find hope,” Joe and Jill Biden said in a statement Thursday.
When the book was announced on Thursday, it came with some A-list blurbs, including one from the famous horror and sci-fi author Stephen King, who called it “harrowing” and “compulsively readable.”
“Hunter Biden proves again that anybody—even the son of a United States President—can take a ride on the pink horse down nightmare alley,” King wrote. “There are plenty of memoirs about the Three Rs (rum, ruin, and redemption), but there are sections in this one that stand out with haunting clarity.”
Sources close to the White House insist the memoir will not serve as a distraction as the president pushes an all-hands-on-deck effort to advance a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. They argue that it allows Hunter Biden an opportunity to tell his own story after being caricatured by conservatives.
Much of that conservative characterization centered on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China. The president’s son was also known for having a volatile, high-flying lifestyle that provided tabloid fodder and grist for his father’s political opponents.
Indeed, Hunter Biden’s time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings became a fixation for Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani—both of whom sought to leverage political figures in the country for dirt on the Bidens.
Revelations of that activity landed Trump with his first impeachment. And when Biden was pressed on Hunter’s Ukraine work while on the campaign trail, he lashed out at a reporter for asking about it, saying the focus should instead be trained on Trump’s behavior on a call with a foreign leader.
But the attacks on Hunter Biden didn’t stop. Throughout the campaign, Republicans repeatedly charged that he was profiting off of his father’s name. The phrase “Where’s Hunter?” became a rallying cry on the right, a question Trump himself would shout to raucous crowds at campaign rallies.
The Biden campaign adopted a strategy to forcefully push back on media questions about Hunter Biden, arguing it was a distraction from Trump’s conduct and likening the scenario to the media’s fixation on Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016.
"Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks?" then-deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield wrote to Dean Baquet, the New York Times’ top editor.
When Trump went after Hunter Biden during the presidential debates, Biden responded that his son had battled addiction like many Americans. The comment drew accolades from addiction relief advocates.
The upcoming memoir is being portrayed as a way to further those conversations around addiction. But it could also open up Hunter Biden to charges that he is once more using his last name for profit.
Such criticism was directed at Ivanka Trump, when she published “Women Who Work” in 2017, months after Trump took office and she started working as a White House adviser to him. She said at the time that she’d donate the unpaid part of her advance and any royalties to charity. It is unclear what Hunter Biden plans to do with his earnings.
Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, released “Triggered” and “Liberal Privilege” while his father was in the White House. The Republican National Committee bought copies of both books to give to donors, shelling out more than $100,000 on copies of “Triggered.”
Jenna Bush Hager published “Ana’s Story,” a nonfiction book about a single mother she met while interning with Unicef in Panama,” in 2007, during President George W. Bush’s second term. She later started an influential book club, “Read With Jenna.”
And two of President Ronald Reagan’s children put out books while he was in office: Patti Davis, who wrote a novel, and Michael Reagan, who published a memoir, “On the Outside Looking In.”
Alex Thompson and Ben Schreckinger contributed to this article.
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