NBC Stumbles into Journalism: Finds Ethics Issue With Hunter’s Art Sale

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NBC Nightly News stumbled into real journalism on Monday, when the network became the first network newscast to give airtime to the ethical controversy surrounding Hunter Biden using his family name to sell his so-called artwork. Not only did they report on how this was creating problems for the White House, but correspondent Stephanie Gosk highlighted art critics ripping his works with one calling them “hotel art.”

“Now to an NBC News investigation into the secret sale of art by President Biden’s son, Hunter. The asking price? Up to half a million dollars per painting,” announced a seemingly shocked anchor, Lester Holt. “But ethics watchdogs are blasting the arrangement.”

Humorously (or at least to those watching), Gosk began the segment by comparing how the gallery selling Hunter’s art was hyping them and how art critics like Ben Davis from Artnet were discounting them:

GOSK: “Powerful” and “impactful” work, according to the gallery owner who will sell Hunter Biden’s art this fall. Art critics aren’t so sure.

DAVIS: Well, it’s not as bad as I might have thought.

GOSK: Others have been tougher. One calling it “hotel art.” But the gallery says it values some of the first-time artist’s paintings up to a half million.

DAVIS: You can get a work from Matisse or Degas for a similar amount of money.

And when asked “how much of that is the name,” Davis estimated “almost all of it.”

 

 

“The sale triggering criticism of a White House that touts itself as the most ethical administration in history,” Gosk noted. She also leaned on Walter Shaub, the Obama-era Government Ethics director the liberal media used against former President Trump when it came to his concerns about his Washington D.C. hotel and real estate company.

According to him, “I think the right thing to do would have been for White House ethics officials to try to talk the President into begging his son not to go through with this sale.” Gosk followed up by playing Devil’s advocate and pressing on the right of presidential children to have careers:

GOSK: Don’t the children of presidents have the right to pursue a career?

SHAUB: The children of presidents have the absolute right to pursue a career. But as citizens of this country, they really have a moral and ethical duty not to trade on their parents’ public service.

“There is also concern that someone might try to gain influence with the President by buying his son’s art,” she said. She even admitted that the arrangement set up with the gallery was not sufficient to stop buyers from trying to influence President Biden:

GOSK: First reported by The Washington Post, the administration has made an agreement with the gallery not to reveal buyers’ names to anyone, including Hunter Biden or the White House.

SHAUB: This is an amateur mistake, because there’s no way to control what the purchasers do. They can go out and tell the world that they bought this art.

Surprisingly, Gosk brought up Hunter’s previous ethics controversy when he “come under fire” for “taking a lucrative board position at Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was VP.” Though, she didn’t mention the questions about his dealings with China and money for “the big guy,” presumed to be Joe himself.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

NBC Nightly News
July 12, 2021
7:16:41 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Now to an NBC News investigation into the secret sale of art by President Biden’s son Hunter. The asking price? Up to half a million dollars per painting. But ethics watchdogs are blasting the arrangement. Here’s Stephanie Gosk.

[Cuts to video]

STEPHANIE GOSK: “Powerful” and “impactful” work, according to the gallery owner who will sell Hunter Biden’s art this fall. Art critics aren’t so sure.

BEN DAVIS (Artnet national art critical): Well, it’s not as bad as I might have thought.

GOSK: Others have been tougher. One calling it “hotel art.” But the gallery says it values some of the first-time artist’s paintings up to a half million.

DAVIS: You can get a work from Matisse or Degas for a similar amount of money.

GOSK: How much of that is the name?

DAVIS: Almost all of it I’d say.

GOSK: The sale triggering criticism of a White House that touts itself as the most ethical administration in history.

WALTER SHAUB: I think the right thing to do would have been for White House ethics officials to try to talk the President into begging his son not to go through with this sale.

GOSK: Walter Shaub was director of Government Ethics under President Obama.

Don’t the children of presidents have the right to pursue a career?

SHAUB: The children of presidents have the absolute right to pursue a career. But as citizens of this country, they really have a moral and ethical duty not to trade on their parents’ public service.

GOSK: There is also concern that someone might try to gain influence with the President by buying his son’s art.

PRESS SEC. JEN PSAKI: I can tell you that after careful consideration, a system has been established that allows for Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards.

GOSK: First reported by The Washington Post, the administration has made an agreement with the gallery not to reveal buyers’ names to anyone, including Hunter Biden or the White House.

SHAUB: This is an amateur mistake, because there’s no way to control what the purchasers do. They can go out and tell the world that they bought this art.

GOSK: Hunter Biden has previously come under fire, including for taking a lucrative board position at Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was VP. But he is also not alone. Past presidents’ children including the Trumps have raised ethics concerns. In this case, experts say more transparency would help.

SHAUB: The American people deserve the opportunity to be able to track whether or not these purchasers are getting preferential access to government.

GOSK: Not saying who is buying the art, Shaub says, is the problem. Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, New York.

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