During the highly anticipated 2020 presidential debate on September 29, President Donald Trump stated that Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, was dishonorably discharged from the military for using cocaine. In response, Biden said, “That is simply not true.”
So, what did happen when Hunter Biden, 50, left the military? On February 18, 2014, Biden was indeed “discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine,” as reported by The Wall Street Journal. However, he was not dishonorably discharged – an important distinction to make.
Click to minute 4:40 in the video below to hear Trump claim Biden was “thrown out of the military” and “dishonorably discharged for cocaine use.”
A failed drug test does not call for a dishonorable discharge for Navy personnel. Instead, they leave their service with a “general” discharge or an “other than honorable” discharge, according to GI Rights Hotline. Commander Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman, said, “Like other junior officers, the details of Ensign Biden’s discharge are not releasable under the Privacy Act,” according to a 2014 story from USA Today.
"My son had a drug problem but he's overcome it and I'm proud of him" — Biden says of Hunter, a powerful message for many Americans hit hard by the opioid crisis Trump pledged to end in 2016.
[Also, Hunter was not dishonorably discharged.]
— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) September 30, 2020
In a July 2019 interview with The New Yorker, Hunter Biden opened up his history with addiction and drug use. He said he knew his past transgression would be used against his father’s bid for the presidency, something Hunter Biden wished he could change.
“Look, everybody faces pain,” he said. “Everybody has trauma. There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel. … It’s a never-ending tunnel. You don’t get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it.”
Hunter Biden Released a Public Apology Following His Failed Drug Test
Biden was 43-years-old when he was commissioned as an ensign by the Navy Reserve through the Direct Commission Officer program in 2012, according to Perry. Even though his position was only part-time, he needed a waiver to join the service due to his age. Biden then needed to acquire a second waiver because of a previous drug-related incident that occurred while he was younger, USA Today reported. However, drug waivers are a common occurrence according to military officials.
Biden wanted a job in naval intelligence but was given a position in public affairs, according to The New Yorker. He was sworn by his father during a ceremony at The White House. However, Biden’s time with the military came to an end after he failed a drug test while stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.
At first, Biden tried writing a letter to the Navy Reserve. He suggested that cigarettes he bummed off a stranger a few months prior might’ve been laced with cocaine and that “he didn’t know how the drug had got into his system.” However, Biden chose not to appeal the decision due to his past drug use and worries of details leaking to the press, which happened anyway.
“I was heartbroken,” Biden told The New Yorker after seeing his story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal in October 2014.
Biden released the following statement on his discharge: “It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.”
Trump Falsely Claimed That Hunter Biden Did Not Have a Job Before His Father Became Vice President
During the debate on Tuesday night, Trump continuously went after Joe Biden’s son and claimed not to know his deceased brother, Beau Biden. Trump claimed Hunter Biden did not have a job until his dad became vice president. However, it’s untrue that Hunter Biden, who graduated from Yale Law in 1996, was unemployed until Barack Obama took office and his father became vice president of the United States.
CNN’s fact-checker Daniel Dale tweeted, “It’s false Hunter Biden did not have a job until Joe Biden became vice president. He became a partner at a law and lobbying firm in 2001. (He did stop lobbying late in 2008 election. Before that, he had worked for MBNA and for the US Commerce Department.)
“Hunter Biden was also not jobless before he got appointed to the Burisma board in 2014,” Dale continued. “He was a lawyer at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner, an adjunct prof at Georgetown, chairman of World Food Program USA, and CEO of his investment advisory firm.”
Dale also tweeted, “Hunter Biden has explicitly acknowledged that his Biden name got him opportunities. But Trump’s portrayal of him as endlessly unemployed without Burisma or without Joe as VP is wrong.”