Elon Musk’s false claim that NBC News covered up Hunter Biden laptop story

Billionaire Elon Musk, who says his offer to purchase Twitter is based on his desire to protect free speech, tweeted an unfounded accusation about NBC News’ coverage of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son.

Musk tweeted on May 2 that NBC News “covered up” the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. It was his response to remarks by Mehdi Hasan, an NBC News show host who called Musk a “petulant & not-so-bright billionaire” and said Musk would hand over Twitter to the far-right.

The laptop saga began in October 2020, when the New York Post reported that a computer that appeared to belong to Hunter Biden had been dropped off at a Delaware repair shop in 2019 and was shared with Rudy Giuliani, at that time the personal attorney to then-President Donald Trump.

When the New York Post story was published, other news outlets were unable to verify the laptop’s existence or contents.

NBC News reported in October 2020 that the reason it wasn’t providing in-depth coverage of the laptop story was simple: “Most mainstream news organizations, including NBC News, have not been granted access to the documents (from the laptop). NBC News asked by email, text, phone call and certified mail, and was ultimately denied.”

At that time, NBC News said its reporters were not given the kind of access that would have allowed them to verify the authenticity of the documents from the laptop.

In March 2022, the New York Times and Washington Post both reported that emails from the laptop had been authenticated. Following those stories, NBC News also reported on new developments in a federal investigation of Hunter Biden, which involves documents from his laptop.

But Musk did not include any of that context when tweeting a response to the remarks from NBC’s Hasan.

Hasan, in the clip that Musk reacted to, said that a pro-QAnon, pro-neo-Nazi faction of the Republican Party is “poised to expand dramatically” after the 2022 midterm elections, and Trump also potentially could be re-elected president in 2024.

If those things happen, Hasan said, “we may look back on this … as a pivotal moment, when a petulant & not-so-bright billionaire casually bought one of the most influential messaging machines & just handed it to the far-right,” referencing Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Musk initially replied, “NBC basically saying Republicans are Nazis …”

He then added, “Same org that covered up Hunter Biden laptop story, had Harvey Weinstein story early & killed it & built Matt Lauer his rape office. Lovely people.”

But NBC News reported in October 2020 that it had “sought to obtain the documents on the alleged Hunter Biden laptop, but (had) been rebuffed.” The story noted that Giuliani’s attorney allowed an NBC News correspondent to review some of the materials in person, but that without taking possession of the documents, the news outlet was unable to conduct “the sort of forensic analysis that might help authenticate the emails and documents.”

NBC News’ 2020 story also said that while the documents from the laptop were alleged to show that Hunter Biden used his father’s influence to get lucrative business deals in Ukraine and China, “the Wall Street Journal and Fox News — among the only news organizations that have been given access to key documents — found that the emails and other records don’t make that case.”

Our ruling

Musk tweeted that NBC News “covered up” the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

NBC News reported in 2020 that its reporters attempted to cover the laptop story but were not given the kind of access that would have allowed them to verify the authenticity of the documents from the laptop. NBC News said it was not among the select few news organizations that had been given access to key documents.

NBC News said its lack of in-depth reporting in 2020 on the laptop was due to people in Trump’s circle trying to limit access to the information. That’s not the same as covering up the story.

Musk’s tweet gives the impression that NBC News had all the relevant information and chose not to disclose it, and that’s not accurate.

We rate this claim False.

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