Former director of national intelligence James Clapper said Politico "deliberately distorted" a letter he and other intelligence officials signed that falsely alleged emails obtained from Hunter Biden's laptop have the "classic earmarks of a Russian information operation."
"There was message distortion," Clapper said in an interview with the Washington Post. "All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation. Politico deliberately distorted what we said. It was clear in paragraph five."
Clapper, who endorsed then-candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 election, waited more than two years to criticize the October 2020 report about the letter. Since its publication, the letter—which claimed that a New York Post story about the Biden family's shady business dealings was likely based on Russian disinformation—has been refuted by outlets such as the Washington Post, CBS, and the New York Times.
"If we are right, this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this," the intelligence officials wrote.
In response to Clapper's comments, Politico defended its reporting about the letter.
"The article fairly and accurately reported on—and summarized—the intelligence officials' letter," an outlet spokesman told the Washington Post. "More specifically, the headline is a fair summary of their allegations, the subhead offers additional context, and the first paragraph of the article hyperlinks to the letter itself, allowing readers to draw their own conclusion."
Social media sites such as Twitter cited the intelligence officials' letter to justify censorship of the New York Post story. A 2022 poll found that four out of five Americans who followed the Hunter Biden laptop story believe that "truthful" reporting on it would have changed the election result.