- The Washington Times
Sunday, May 2, 2021

NEW ORLEANS — Many students at Tulane University are welcoming the news that Hunter Biden, the beleaguered son of the president, will be lecturing at the New Orleans college in the fall, even if their parents are not.

“I think it’s cool, I think it is exciting,” said Maria Benavides, a freshman from Monterrey, Mexico.

Ms. Benavides’ view was echoed by almost all of the roughly two dozen students The Washington Times asked about the news that Mr. Biden would be one of several professionals lecturing for an online class in the fall on “Media Polarization and Public Policy Impacts.”

Indeed, students said the class was swamped when registration opened, with its 50 spots gobbled up almost immediately and the waiting list standing at nearly that many Thursday afternoon. Such popularity for a class is rare, students said.

“It’s the name,” said Tara Nord, a junior.

Ms. Nord works part time in Tulane’s admissions office, and she said phones there were ringing off the hook Wednesday when news broke of Mr. Biden’s new gig. 

Parents of students at Tulane, where the sticker price this year topped $72,500, were irate at Mr. Biden’s lack of credentials to teach at a prestigious college, Ms. Nord said.

Ms. Nord and other staffers labored to make clear to callers that Tulane had not hired Mr. Biden as a faculty member — as initial media reports suggested — but that he would be one of several guest speakers for the class. The course will explore “the current state of the media landscape in the United States and how media polarization, fake news, and the economics of the news business impact public policymaking in Washington, D.C.”

While Mr. Biden has neither served in elected office nor been a faculty member at a university, he has been at the center of multiple scandals. While his father served as point man in the Obama administration for policy toward Ukraine and Communist China, the younger Biden inked lucrative deals with companies in those countries for which he had no expertise.

He became a liability during the 2020 campaign for his father, because those business dealings fueled accusations of influence-trading that exploded in October with the reported discovery of his personal laptop at a Delaware repair shop.

The emails from the hard drive obtained by the New York Post, as well as a Fox News interview with former business associate Tony Bobulinski, suggested that his father was aware of his overseas deals, even though Mr. Biden said he never talked to his son about them when he was Mr. Obama’s vice president.

The scandal failed to gain traction outside the conservative media because of doubts about whether the laptop was really his. Hunter Biden told CBS that the laptop could be his, although he wasn’t sure. But the perception that he traded on his family name to enrich himself has been hard to shake.

On a recent book tour for his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” Mr. Biden acknowledged that federal investigators are now probing his tax returns over his business dealings. He has denied any financial wrongdoing.

He also has coped with a harsh media spotlight brought on by his problems with drug addiction, which resulted in his being dismissed by the U.S. Navy and impregnating an Arkansas stripper.

Mr. Biden’s experiences should provide entertaining and enlightening fodder for a media class, students said.

“I thought it was kind of weird when I heard about it, sort of, ‘really? Hunter Biden?’” said Kaitlynn Winder, a junior from Tennessee. “But I would definitely consider taking that class.”

The class will feature a guest speaking lineup heavily skewed to the left, with columnists from The Washington Post, Juan Williams of Fox News’ “The Five,” and staffers from the New Yorker, CNN and CBS.

Students at Tulane are overwhelmingly liberal, and none of them agreed with articles that essentially mocked the university for roping in the president’s son for a guest spot.

Even students who expressed no interest in the class, such as Julia Sterling, a music major from New Jersey, said they could see the appeal in including Mr. Biden in a class.

Many students echoed Ms. Nord and Ms. Winder in saying they thought Tulane should offer the community a wide spectrum of opinion.

“I don’t think anyone should be shunned for their political opinion, and that’s true across the spectrum, because you’ve got to have all the voices,” said Jackson Guizan, a freshman from southern California, who said he does not plan to take the class since he plans to be a pre-med major. “It’s just the name here.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.