The wayward son saved by a president’s love

Family embrace: Joe Biden kisses his son Hunter at the presidential inauguration. © Getty

Is Hunter brave to publish his life story? The memoir, released yesterday, describes his battle against addiction and the crucial role Joe Biden played in putting his life back on track.

The addict was living alone. After years of drug and alcohol abuse, the loss of his brother brought him to rock bottom. He was, “basically drinking myself to death”. One person refused to give up – his father.

The father in question was Joe Biden, then the vice-president of the United States.

This family devotion is central to Hunter’s autobiography, Beautiful Things. It takes its title from his brother Beau’s last words to him: “You focus on beautiful things, and everything else will make itself readily apparent.”

When Hunter was two, his mother and sister were killed in a car accident; he suffered head injuries, and his brother Beau a broken leg.

This event took place as Joe Biden was elected senator for Delaware.

Joe Biden never neglected his role as father.

There was a rule: “At any time my brother and I could say, ‘Dad, I want to spend the day with you.’”

Hunter trained as a lawyer, before moving to business. Addiction got the better of him, and became worse when Beau developed brain cancer.

Hunter became involved in business dealings in Ukraine and China which brought accusations he was misusing his father’s influence.

To Donald Trump, he represented Joe Biden’s Achilles heel. Trump’s first impeachment centred on accusations he misused his influence to pressurise Ukraine’s president into investigating Hunter’s affairs.

Is Hunter brave to have published his life story?

Biden confides

Yes. He has been pilloried for his shortcomings by Trump, who brought them up in a debate. To confess to alcoholism and addiction after that requires courage – especially when you have a career, and your father is the target of the right-wing.

No. He did not have anything to lose. It would have been braver to turn the other cheek. Most who read the book will be well disposed towards Hunter.

You Decide

  1. Should a politician’s private life be taken into account when judging his or her competence?


  1. Paint a group portrait of the members of your family closest to you.

Some People Say...

“It’s about time we started looking at addiction as a mental-health issue, rather than an ethical or moral issue.”

Hunter Biden (1970 – ), American businessman

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that Donald Trump developed an obsession with trying to discredit Joe Biden through Hunter. His hopes rested on the fact Joe Biden had been in charge of US-Ukraine relations at a time when Hunter was a director of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. Trump blocked military aid to the country before asking its president to investigate the Bidens.
What do we not know?
One main area of debate is around whether Hunter does in fact have something to answer for. He has acknowledged that it was foolish of him to accept the job with Burisma; however, investigators have found no evidence that he influenced his father’s dealings with Ukraine. He was also offered a stake in a company with Chinese interests after accompanying his father on a vice-presidential visit to Beijing – but did not accept it until after Joe Biden had left office.

Word Watch

Biden held this position under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
Beau Biden was a successful lawyer who served two terms as Delaware’s district attorney. He was also a major in the National Guard, decorated for his service in Iraq. He died in 2015 aged 46.
Situated on the east coast, it is the second smallest state in the US.
Achilles heel
Weak spot. In Greek mythology, Achilles’ mother tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the sacred River Styx as a baby, but the heel she held him by was left vulnerable.
Ukraine’s president
Volodymyr Zelensky has been president since 2019. Before his election he was an actor who played the president of Ukraine in a TV comedy show.
Investigating Hunter’s affairs
Trump also sent his lawyer Rudi Giuliani to Ukraine in search of incriminating evidence. There he met a politician believed by US intelligence to be in the pay of the Russian government.

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