The White House, on the defensive, on Friday offered assurances that necessary ethical precautions would be taken around any exhibitions and sale of artwork by President Joe Biden’s son, whose personal life and professional career have been peppered with controversy.
Asked by reporters about upcoming exhibitions of Hunter Biden’s artwork in New York’s Georges Berges Gallery, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president’s son would be “attending gallery events.”
But, she was quick to add, discussions about sales “will be happening with the gallerist” and not Hunter Biden, she said. “That is different than meeting with prospective buyers,” a circumstance that was reported to be the case on Thursday.
Psaki had announced July 9 that a system had been established allowing Hunter Biden to practice his profession “within appropriate safeguards,” including the confidentiality of any transactions and no contact with buyers.
At exhibits of Hunter’s work, “the selling of his art will all happen through the gallerist and the names and individuals will be kept confidential,” she said.
When pressed that a buyer could simply tell the artist that he or she is purchasing his work, Psaki stressed that a strict rules structure will be in place.
“He will not know, we will not know who purchases his art,” she said.
Contacted by AFP, the gallery did not immediately provide any comment or details.
The Biden administration, which seeks to present itself as ethically unblemished, has been repeatedly questioned about the artistic career of the 51-year-old lawyer and businessman-turned-painter, who has previously been accused of trying to peddle access to his dad when the senior Biden was vice president under the Obama administration.
U.S. media point out the obvious risks of businessmen or others purchasing the artwork with the sole aim of winning access to or influence with the White House.
Press reports have said the paintings by Biden, who has had no formal training, could sell for up to half a million dollars.
Hunter Biden is one of former president Donald Trump’s favorite targets.
During the 2020 presidential campaign Trump and his supporters regularly criticized Hunter Biden for his economic interests in Ukraine and China when his father was vice president under Barack Obama.
Hunter is also the target of a federal investigation into possible tax crimes.
In a memoir published earlier this year, the president’s youngest son recounted his struggle with addiction to cocaine and alcohol.