As Tucker Carlson asked Hunter Biden for help getting his son into an elite Washington university in 2014, the Fox News host's wife, Susie, reportedly wrote in an email: "Tucker and I have the greatest respect and admiration for you. Always!"
Since the 2020 election, however, Carlson has fueled rightwing attacks on Joe Biden's son, particularly over business affairs in which he allegedly benefited from his father's position.
The existence of emails about getting Buckley Carlson into Georgetown has been known for some time, thanks to a laptop once owned by Hunter Biden that was obtained by Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and pushed to media in 2020.
On Thursday the Washington Post revealed new emails and said analysis by security experts confirmed their authenticity.
The emails, the Post said, "reveal the extent to which Carlson was willing to turn on a former associate as he thrives in a hyper-partisan media world in which conservatives have made Biden a prime target for attack."
"They also show how Carlson once sought to benefit from the elite political circles in Washington that he now regularly rails against as the 'ruling class'."
Carlson told the Post that in 2014, when Joe Biden was vice-president, "Hunter Biden was my neighbor. Our wives were friends. I knew him well.
"I talked to him many times about addiction, something I know a lot about. And I've said that. I think that Hunter Biden is an addict and that's why his life is falling apart, and I feel bad for him. I've said that many times, and I mean it."
He also said he would not comment on the emails, as they "were described by our [intelligence] community as Russian disinformation. So why would I? And I read that in the Washington Post".
The Post said Carlson was "speaking with apparent irony". He and others on the right charge that mainstream media willfully overlooked the Biden laptop in 2020, amid reports it could contain disinformation planted by Russia or other malign actors.
The Post also said emails showed Carlson helping Biden in 2015, amid reports about the state of Biden's marriage. Carlson has confirmed doing so.
But the Post focused on Carlson's apparent hypocrisy.
Quoting Carlson accusing Hunter Biden of getting "lucrative jobs … because he had an important father", the Post said the Fox News host did so without "disclosing that he had once enlisted Biden to help get his son into a prestigious private university".
On the same January 2020 show, Carlson said: "In America today, there's nothing illegal about paying de facto bribes by handing fake jobs to the unqualified family members of powerful people. And since it is perfectly legal, naturally, Hunter Biden isn't the only one shamelessly cashing in on his family name."
In another email reported by the Post, Susie Carlson wrote: "Tucker and I would be so grateful if you could write a letter or speak to someone in the Georgetown Admission's [sic] Office about Buckley."
Biden reportedly agreed to write to the university president and said: "I will do anything you would like me to do."
According to the Post, Tucker Carlson wrote: "I can't thank you enough for writing that letter to Georgetown on Bucky's behalf. So nice of you. I know it'll help. Hope you're great and we can all get dinner soon."
Buckley Carlson went to the University of Virginia. Now communications director for Jim Banks, a House Republican from Indiana, he did not comment on the Post report.
Amid reaction online, the author Radley Balko wrote: "The story here is that Tucker Carlson is the living embodiment of the unearned, privileged elitism that Tucker Carlson derides on his show every night. The Hunter Biden part is just gravy."
Rightwing accounts pointed to an NBC report which said Biden's laptop and other sources showed that between 2013 and 2018, he and his company brought in about $11m from work linked to Ukraine and China.