By Tanveer Kaur
Hunter Biden is often a target of the GOP and President Trump. Biden’s past struggles with addiction may not come as a surprise to some Americans—addiction is something that millions struggle with regardless of their background. The constant attacks on Hunter Biden and his addiction, all made in the name of politics, have only exacerbated the stigma around addiction.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL-1) painted a disparaging picture of Hunter Biden’s addiction last year during a congressional hearing before Mr. Trump’s impeachment. He recounted how Hunter Biden tried to buy crack cocaine while "wandering through homeless encampments," a reference to Biden’s relapse in 2016. These attacks should set off an alarm bell for many; over 20 million Americans suffer from opioid addiction, according to the National Institute of Health. Using addiction to attack political opposition is disgraceful. Elected officials should be working towards helping those affected by addiction—not gaslighting and demonizing them.
Overdoses killed over 70,000 people last year, according to federal researchers. Proper rehabilitation treatment could have prevented many of those deaths. According to the CDC, the epidemic hit families particularly hard in swing states that played a significant role in the presidential election, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
When Mr. Trump took the stage with Joe Biden for the first debate in the lead-up to the election, the president attacked his Democratic rival’s son with false claims about his addiction. "Hunter got thrown out of the military," Mr. Trump said, "He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged, for cocaine use." That's factually inaccurate. Hunter Biden received an administrative discharge, not a dishonorable discharge, from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2014 after his cocaine use was discovered.
Mr. Trump’s comments interpreted substance abuse as a character failure, undermining the steady progress our society has been making in destigmatizing addiction. “Don’t forget, people are dying the other route,” Mr. Trump said during a White House briefing in May. “You can go with the enclosed route. Everything is closed up, you’re in your house, you’re not allowed to move. You look at drug addiction, you look at suicides, you look at some of the things that are taking place, people are dying that way, too.” It seems as though Mr. Trump only acknowledges addiction when it is beneficial for him to do so. Mr. Trump should be working to help all Americans affected by this epidemic, not actively increasing the stigma surrounding it.
Hunter Biden has spoken candidly about his addiction, telling The New Yorker it’s like “darkness.” Joe Biden admires how his son overcame the addiction. "My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem," said Joe Biden during the September 29 debate with Trump. "He's overtaken it, he's fixed it, he's worked on it, and I'm proud of him." Joe Biden relates to so many parents across the country who watched the debate and recognized their story in the Biden family.
Mocking people with addictions will only increase the already substantial stigma around the disease. Degrading people might make them less likely to reach out for help. We should not let politics divide us on something that affects so many millions of Americans in such detrimental ways.