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Lawyers for Hunter Biden plan to sue Fox News 'imminently'

A letter obtained by NBC News says action is pending because of Fox’s alleged "conspiracy and subsequent actions to defame Mr. Biden and paint him in a false light."
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Lawyers for Hunter Biden plan to sue Fox News “imminently,” according to a letter sent to the network and obtained by NBC News. 

The letter, dated April 23, puts the Fox News Channel and Fox News Digital on notice for litigation claims arising from the network’s alleged “conspiracy and subsequent actions to defame Mr. Biden and paint him in a false light, the unlicensed commercial exploitation of his image, name, and likeness, and the unlawful publication of hacked intimate images of him.” 

Biden has hired attorney Mark Geragos and his firm to represent him in the Fox litigation efforts. The letter is the second outreach to Fox this month. An earlier letter was hand-delivered to Fox’s counsel two weeks ago, and the network asked for more time to respond, according to a source familiar with Biden’s legal efforts. The April 23 letter included a Friday evening, April 26, deadline to respond. The letter is signed by Tina Glandian, a partner at Geragos & Geragos working on the case.

Hunter Biden
President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden departs a court appearance on July 26, 2023, in Wilmington, Del.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

A Fox News media spokesperson said in a statement on the letter that Hunter Biden's lawyers "have belatedly chosen to publicly attack Fox News’ constitutionally protected coverage regarding their client. Mr. Biden is a public figure who has been the subject of investigations by both the Department of Justice and Congress, has been indicted by two different US Attorney’s Offices in California and Delaware, and has admitted to multiple incidents of wrongdoing. Consistent with the First Amendment, Fox News has accurately covered these highly publicized events as well as the subsequent indictment of an FBI informant who was the source of certain claims made about Mr. Biden.”

Much of the letter from Biden's legal team is focused on a six-part “mock trial” titled “The Trial of Hunter Biden” that aired in October 2021, described by Fox as what a trial might look like if Biden was charged with Foreign Agents Registration Act or bribery charges — neither of which Biden has been charged with. “While using certain true information, the series intentionally manipulates the facts, distorts the truth, narrates happenings out of context, and invents dialogue intended to entertain. Thus, the viewer of the series cannot decipher what is fact and what is fiction,” the letter says. The letter demands that the series be removed from all streaming services. 

On Tuesday, a day after initial publication of this article, Fox announced that it had taken the series off its streaming services. “This program was produced in and has been available since 2022,” said a Fox News spokesperson. “We are reviewing the concerns that have just been raised and — out of an abundance of caution in the interim — have taken it down.”

The new threat of litigation comes almost a year after Fox News agreed to pay almost $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems to settle defamation claims related to Fox’s airing of election fraud claims in the 2020 election. Fox News also agreed to a $12 million settlement with a former employee who alleged she was pressured to provide misleading information as part of the Dominion case. 

Fox is currently facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit brought by Smartmatic, another voting system company that was the focus of Fox News coverage, as well as suits brought by shareholders against directors of the company for allowing the channel to air the allegations during its 2020 election coverage. Fox said in its latest financial disclosures that it will contest the lawsuits, but acknowledges that there could be a “material” adverse impact on the company’s business and financial position. 

The plan for Hunter Biden to pursue legal action against Fox News has been in the works for over a year, according to sources familiar with Biden's legal efforts, and was inspired in part by the success of the Dominion lawsuit and the ongoing Smartmatic lawsuit. The effort took on new importance with the revelations that the bribery allegations cited on air originated from the FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, who was indicted by special counsel David Weiss in February.

In a statement, Geragos said: “For the last five years, Fox News has relentlessly attacked Hunter Biden and made him a caricature in order to boost ratings and for its financial gain. The recent indictment of FBI informant Smirnov has exposed the conspiracy of disinformation that has been fueled by Fox, enabled by their paid agents and monetized by the Fox enterprise. We plan on holding them accountable.”

Hunter Biden has been a focus of Fox News coverage for the last several years. A review of network transcripts by the group Media Matters cites at least 13,440 mentions of Hunter Biden since January 2023. Biden’s legal team believes the number of mentions over many years makes the potential case as significant if not more so than the Dominion case, according to sources familiar with the legal strategy.

The Biden letter specifically cites Fox’s advancement of bribery allegations by Smirnov, who was indicted in February on charges of making false statements about the Bidens to the FBI. “Smirnov and the post indictment revelations basically closed the loop on the conspiracy,” Geragos told NBC News.

The letter alleges that Fox News knew that the bribery allegations were unverified at the time but continued to report that the source was “highly credible,” and demands corrections and retractions — including on-air statements by television hosts “including Sean Hannity, Jesse Watters, and Maria Bartiromo, to inform their viewers on air that they have been sharing a debunked allegation from a source who has been federally indicted.”

The letter also alleges that Fox’s airing of “intimate images” belonging to Hunter Biden that his lawyers claim were “hacked, stolen, and/or manipulated” violates Biden’s civil rights as well as copyright law.

This new litigation push comes as Biden prepares for a summer of criminal trials. His trial on gun charges in Delaware starts June 3, and his tax case is expected to go to trial in August. He’s pleaded not guilty in both cases.