It has been a great week for Joe Biden. The man running against Donald Trump in November’s US Presidential election was eulogised by his party’s biggest beasts during the virtual Democratic national convention.
Hillary Clinton praised ‘honest Joe’ for being ‘full of dignity and devoted to his family and country’ while Barack Obama – under whom Biden served eight years as vice-president – called him his ‘brother’ and said the very future of America depended on voters picking ‘dignified Joe’ at the ballot box.
Speech after speech drew upon the heartbreaking story of how Biden’s first wife and daughter were killed in a car crash and how his eldest son Beau died of a brain tumour to ram home the message that here is a man who can heal and rebuild a deeply divided America just as he rebuilt his own life after seemingly insurmountable tragedy.
The black sheep of the family Hunter Biden, 50, (L) has been described as his father’s ‘Achilles heel in presidential bid
Yet one name was conspicuously glossed over in the tributes. That of Biden’s surviving son Hunter. Apart from a brief video of a subdued Hunter, 50, introducing a weepy segment about Beau, he remained firmly in the shadows.
And for good reason.
For Hunter Biden has been described as his father’s ‘Achilles heel’, a drunken, drug-addled black sheep who has fathered at least one child out of wedlock while allegedly lining his own pockets through shady business deals, using his father’s good name and political connections for his own gain. At one point Hunter even dated his dead brother’s widow.
Of course, Biden is not the first man bidding to be leader of the free world who has been embarrassed by a rogue family member.
Peanut-growing president Jimmy Carter’s ‘redneck’ brother Billy received $250,000 (£190,000) from America’s sworn enemy Libya and urinated on an airport runway in full view of the press and dignitaries.
Then there was Bill Clinton’s wayward sibling Roger, who served time for cocaine possession, drug-trafficking and drink-driving.
Now Hunter has become the prime target for those seeking to derail his father’s run for the White House.
For weeks Trump has been asking ‘Where’s Hunter?’ Last week his campaign launched a scathing two-minute ad called ‘Joe Won’t Stand Up For Us’ which repeated allegations that Hunter abused his father’s position as Obama’s vice-president to earn millions in shady deals with China and the Ukraine. Hunter has vehemently denied all charges.
‘Joe Biden is a good guy, a decent man,’ an LA-based producer and major Democratic Party donor told The Mail on Sunday last night. ‘Joe is someone who doesn’t cheat on his wife, has never been embroiled in scandal. Like Donald Trump, he doesn’t even drink alcohol.
‘Hunter is his Achilles heel. Those around Joe dare not even mention Hunter’s name. It’s a sore subject. He loves Hunter, of course, but Joe realises he’s a liability.’
Indeed last November, when a Fox News reporter confronted Biden after DNA tests proved Hunter fathered an illegitimate child with Arkansas stripper Lunden Alexis Roberts (stage name ‘Dusty’), the normally unflappable Biden snapped.
Visibly angry, he growled: ‘No, that’s a private matter, I have no comment… only you would ask that…. Classy.’
While Hunter’s three grown-up daughters from his failed first marriage to Kathleen are clearly doted on by their devoted grandfather (at the convention Naomi, 26, Finnegan, 20, and 19-year-old Maisy told how their grandfather calls them every day from the campaign trail), Biden is thought to have never met his son’s child with Roberts.
‘Joe is a family man but there are areas which are off-limit,’ the donor said. ‘And Hunter’s car-crash private life is one of them.’
‘Dusty’, the stripper Hunter fathered an illegitimate child with
Instead, Biden’s campaign has focused on the compelling childhood narrative of Hunter and his late brother Beau: two little boys who were left motherless after a 1972 car crash claimed the lives of Biden’s first wife Neilia, 30, and 13-month- old daughter Naomi. Hunter and Beau were both badly injured in the accident, too.
Much has been made of the fact Biden, as a young senator in the early stages of ‘overwhelming’ grief, would travel four hours on a train each day from his home in Delaware to Washington DC and back again so that he could make his sons breakfast and be there to tuck them into bed at night.
Then there is the powerful tale of how his second wife Jill, a schoolteacher, turned down his proposal of marriage five times because she loved young Beau and Hunter so much she wanted to be certain the marriage would never end in divorce ‘because I couldn’t stand the idea of those little boys having to suffer any more’.
Biden’s TV commercials have lingered lovingly on black-and-white portraits of his sons as children. There are pictures of…