As Joe Biden roams Ireland, Hunter stays by his side
For four days, a Biden traveled across Northern Ireland and Ireland, meeting with the nations’ top dignitaries, waving to the crowds, and sentimentally retracing his family’s lineage throughout the Emerald Isle.
His father, Joe, was also there.
If ever there were a question as to Hunter Biden’s whereabouts, the answer this week was obvious: He was overseas, glued to President Joe Biden’s side during the entirety of a whirlwind trip that mixed global diplomacy with a sprawling exploration of his ancestral roots.
There was Hunter, chatting with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the tarmac in Belfast. There he was again in Dublin, huddled in the rain with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He was in County Louth, absorbing the sights. In a local Dundalk market, he surveyed the menu, interrupting his dad’s conversation to suggest he may order something.
Hunter was at the Irish president’s residence, shaking hands and telling its occupant, Michael D. Higgins, that he was “a fan of your poetry.” He was in the audience at Ireland’s Parliament as Biden addressed a joint session of the legislature. Later that night, he attended a banquet thrown in his father’s honor, mingling with Irish ministers before dining with the widow of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney.
For much of Biden’s presidency, Hunter has been at the center of controversy and the subject of heightened scrutiny. He is a fascination of the conservative mediasphere and a target of federal investigators and Republicans in Congress. But an ocean away, he was mostly just a son and close travel companion, tagging along with his aunt Valerie Biden Owen.
It was, ostensibly, a business trip for his dad. But the president himself explained that he’d decided to take family members “who hadn’t been there before.” And by all appearances, Hunter thoroughly enjoyed the jaunt.
He served as a particular point of pride for Biden, who has refused to distance himself from his son even as the attention on Hunter’s foreign business dealings, the “laptop from hell,” and his personal struggle threatened to cast a cloud over the administration’s agenda.
“I’m here with my sister, Valerie, and my youngest son, Hunter Biden,” the president told residents at a pub in Dundalk. “Stand up, guys. I’m proud of you.”
It’s not unusual for a president’s family members to join trips abroad, and Hunter did not sit in on Biden’s private meetings with heads of state. But his ubiquity nonetheless (and unsurprisingly) gained traction in conservative circles.
“Hunter Biden should not be on foreign trips with Joe Biden while under federal investigation,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)tweeted. “Is this really the image America wants to project to the world?”
The White House dismissed criticism of Hunter’s involvement in the trip. “Historically family members of Presidents and First Ladies have frequently joined them during international travel,” a spokesperson said. “Current practices are consistent with those used by prior Administrations.” The spokesperson also confirmed that Hunter, as well as Biden Owen, were paying their own way.
At times, Hunter’s presence was something of a nuisance to the media on the ground. When Biden arrived in Dundalk, Hunter hopped out of the Beast before the president, inadvertently blocking reporters’ view of his father as they greeted the crowd and leaving the pool photographers with plenty of clear shots of Hunter, but not nearly as many of Biden.
Though he may not have had any formal role in Biden’s entourage, Hunter did find ways to make himself useful. He held an umbrella at one point to shield Biden from the rain. At a noisy firehouse meet-and-greet with embassy workers,he helped moderate a brief Q&A between Biden and some children. And importantly for a president with a tendency to get off schedule, he sought to gently steer things back on task, though not always with much success.
“You’re supposed to do the rope line, Dad,” Hunter reminded Biden, as he chatted away with the kids. “Just to say hi to everybody.”
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