On Monday’s episode of Hannity, in one of Fox News’ most embarrassing segments yet, Sean Hannity aired a private voicemail Joe Biden left for his son Hunter Biden, who was struggling with substance abuse addiction at the time. In the voicemail, Biden tenderly expresses unconditional love for his son, which a Fox producer helpfully typed up: “It’s Dad. I’m calling to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal,” Biden says, audibly emotional. “You gotta get some help. I don’t know what to do. I know you don’t either.”
The audio, which the Daily Mail first published in 2018, is even more heart-wrenching and powerful. Somehow, with the midterms a few weeks away, conservatives’ closing message seems to be that loving your children is a shameful scandal. The party of “family values” crushes it, yet again.
“It’s actually sad,” Hannity said after airing the audio, not sounding very sad. Then he pivoted: “Now that voicemail reportedly came at the exact same time Hunter lied on a gun application to buy a handgun.” OK...
“By the way,” Hannity said, “replace the name Biden with Trump and imagine how the mob and the media would be covering all of this.”
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As a member of the media, my jaw would be on the floor if a supportive, loving voicemail left by former President Donald Trump leaked. There’s always a note of envy in Don. Jr’s voice when he’s spewing right-wing talking points about Hunter Biden’s stolen laptop and struggles with addiction. I know little about Don Jr.’s private relationship with his own dad, but I highly doubt that even on his best day, his dad has ever left him a voicemail like this.
The Hannity segment was a run-of-the-mill Hunter Biden hit piece, but it says a lot that his father’s voicemail was included in it. The insinuation is that the pair should be ashamed of Hunter and his struggles with addiction, which he’s been open about for years, and that the president’s words of comfort to his only living son (Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015) are, somehow, embarrassing.
Whether people like Hannity think Biden should be embarrassed by his son’s substance abuse struggles—or for being a man and expressing softness and emotion—is unclear, but it’s reprehensible in either case. I can’t even imagine how void of love in your life you have to be to say things like this.
A Republican ally re-upping this voicemail this week is an odd choice, too, following last week’s revelations of some pretty awful Republican parenting: After being outed for allegedly paying for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker—who has at least four kids with four different mothers—was outed as a terrible father to the child he does have with the unnamed woman. He apparently hasn’t seen the child since 2016, had to be forced to make shockingly meager child support payments, and has apparently refused to see or make contact with the kid beyond a weird, occasional 3 a.m. “love you” text. Walker’s one publicly known son, Christian, accused the Senate candidate of abusing and trying to kill him and his mom. None of this has stopped the former NFL star from campaigning on racist dog whistles about absentee fathers and the importance of having a man in the household.
Tsk-tsk-ing at Republican hypocrisy feels essentially useless at this point, but this episode is particularly sad. Conservatives claim to be the party of family values, championing heteronormative nuclear families headed by strong, supportive fathers who love and care for their kids; it’s part of why abortion, they say, is so bad. But as some of the right’s most visible talking heads neglect or abuse their own kids, the parenting that Hannity takes issue with is Biden’s—parenting that is clearly rooted in unconditional love.
Last year, Hunter Biden told CBS about a time in 2020 when he stormed out of an intervention organized by his family, ran toward his car, and was blocked by his adult daughters who begged him to stay. When his father caught up to him, “[Biden] grabbed me and gave me a bear hug and he said—he just cried,” he said. “I don’t know a force more powerful than my family’s love, except addiction.”