The Slatest

Republican Spokesman, for Some Reason, Mocks Photo of Biden Holding Young Son

A tweet that reads "Hey Joe Biden, are you still a Redskins fan?" with a photo of a younger Biden holding a young boy wearing a Redskins hat
Photo illustration by Slate. Screenshot via Casey Mink/Twitter.

The tweet above was posted by a Republican “rapid response” spokesman named Steve Guest on Monday, apparently as a “rapid response” to the Washington NFL team’s announcement that it will no longer use the “Redskins” nickname or logo. Joe Biden’s Facebook page had previously posted the photo attached to the tweet on Father’s Day.

Like much MAGA political messaging, the exact meaning of Guest’s post is hard to parse even though its intended effect (insulting Biden) is not. The idea could be, perhaps, that Biden is a hypocrite for supporting the Washington NFL team despite being a member of the Democratic Party, which (in its present form) frowns upon racist language and iconography. This “gotcha” is undermined, however, by the visible evidence that the photo is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 years old, and doesn’t depict Biden himself in Washington gear; having attended a local football game in the 1970s with a child wearing team colors is not the most solid evidence of strong allegiance. Nor does it appear that Biden has taken a position either way on the team’s name in 2020.

The rhetorical conceit of directing the question at Biden himself is, moreover, tasteless, given that the photo appears to show him with both of his sons—one in his arms, the other next to him—when they were young; as is widely known, Biden’s first wife, Neilia, the mother of his sons Beau and Hunter, was killed in a car crash, along with the family’s baby daughter, when the boys were respectively 3 and 2 years old. Beau would later die, in 2015, of cancer. It’s not clear from the photo which boy is which, but Guest, the Republican spokesman, tried to dismiss the question in a follow-up tweet whose crudeness again outpaced its coherence, writing: “To the libs in my mentions, odds are this is a photo of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s crack smoking son who was administratively discharged from the Navy for testing positive for cocaine and who has abused his dad’s elected position to get rich off the Chinese Communist Party.” (Hunter Biden has discussed his discharge and cocaine use publicly. You can click here for background on the Trump campaign’s overstated allegations regarding Hunter’s … let’s say opportunistic work with Chinese companies.)

So what’s the problem that the Republican Party was trying to point out by tweeting an old photograph of a father tenderly embracing his son? That Joe Biden went to a Washington NFL game, or that Hunter Biden has a checkered record of life achievement? And are those two things, somehow, related? Sadly(?), we will never know the answers to those questions, as Guest has deleted both tweets.

Guest, incidentally, got one of his first jobs in politics at the Daily Caller, the right-wing website founded by Tucker Carlson. The Caller also incubated Blake Neff, the writer for Carlson’s Fox News show who resigned on Friday after CNN revealed that he’d contributed for years to a wildly racist message board. In 2015, another one of Carlson’s Caller writers—who happened to be his brother, Buckley—copied a New York mayoral spokeswoman on an email in which he referred to her as “LabiaFace” and “bitch.” Carlson was also copied on the email, but didn’t apologize, and belittled the spokeswoman when he was contacted about the incident later by BuzzFeed. Now, he has the top-rated show in cable news and is arguably the most influential right-wing pundit in the country. Which is to say: Regardless of what happens in November, the feeling of being barreled over by the repulsiveness of a story involving the Republican Party, or the modern “conservative” movement more broadly, is not going to end with Donald Trump’s time in the White House.

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