What More Do We Now Know?

Conservative commentators have sprung upon changes to a prominent fact check about the president’s daughter, Ashley Biden, whose diary was published online after it was stolen from a home in Florida.

Fact-checker Snopes was quoted by right-wing outlets and personalities including Colin Rugg, Libs of TikTok, and Jack Posobiec after it changed the verdict on an article assessing the authenticity of the diary’s content, stolen from President Joe Biden’s daughter, from “Unproven” to “True.”

Last month Aimee Harris was sentenced to a month in prison and three months of home confinement for stealing Ashley Biden’s diary, which she sold to the conservative media outlet Project Veritas.

Ashley Biden, daughter of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden. Aimee Harris, the woman who stole and sold Ashley Biden’s diary to a right-wing group, was sentenced last month for the theft.

Christian Liewig – Corbis/Getty

She had pleaded guilty in 2022, with Robert Kurlander to conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines. Kurlander has yet to be sentenced.

What’s changed now?

In an update note, Snopes wrote it changed its article about the diary’s content “based on testimony provided by Ashley Biden.” The testimony was a letter Biden sent to Judge Laura Taylor Swain, the Chief United States District Judge of the Southern District of New York, published by The New York Times.

Biden asked Swain that Harris be imprisoned, saying the defendant demonstrated “a complete lack of morality” and that her actions were “not only re-traumatizing to me, but constituted a horrific trauma in and of themselves.”

Biden also wrote, “I will forever have to deal with the fact that my personal journal can be viewed online.” This letter, Snopes argued, authenticated the diary’s contents which had been printed online.

“Previous versions of this fact check noted ‘strong evidence’ that the diary existed, but argued that no source had authenticated the contents of the pages published online, writing that ‘the authenticity of photographs purported to be from a diary is a separate question from the factual existence of a diary.'” it said.

“Ashley Biden’s letter to the court, in Snopes’ view, provides that authentication.”

What can be gleaned from this change is debatable.

Some suggested that Snopes had “reversed” its decision, which is misleading. It did not previously say the contents shared online were inauthentic or false, only that they could not be verified based on what had been shared.

Furthermore, in her letter to the judge, Ashley Biden wrote that others had “once-grossly” misinterpreted her “once-private” writings and thrown “false accusations that defame my character and those of the people I love.”

Biden also said that her “innermost thoughts” recorded in the diary had been “constantly distorted and manipulated,” and assumed that the point of the theft was to “peddle grotesque lies by distorting my stream-of-consciousness thoughts.”

Crucially, while Snopes stated the content published online was authentic, the meaning and significance of what Biden wrote has been interpreted without her consent, without additional context, and, as has been proved in court, was made public as part of a scheme to enrich the people who stole it.

Newsweek has contacted a representative for Ashley Biden and the White House via email for comment.

What happened to the diary?

According to an Associated Press report covering Harris’ prosecution, Ashley Biden was moving out of a friend’s home in Delray Beach, Florida, in Spring 2020 when she stored the diary and other belongings at the property. Prosecutors said Biden had believed the items had been stored safely.

Harris later moved into the same room, found the items, and contacted Kurlander, of nearby Jupiter, who said he would help sell them for a “ton of money.”

Prosecutors say they failed to sell it to the Trump campaign but later sold it for $40,000 to controversial undercover news outlet Project Veritas.

Although Project Veritas did not publish the story, another conservative media outlet, The National File, reportedly published in November 2020 what it said was “a copy of the complete diary of Ashley Blazer Biden, the 39-year-old daughter of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, dating from during the 2020 presidential campaign.”

The Intercept and New York Magazine both reported that the diary was said to have been leaked to The National File from a source at Project Veritas.

Harris and Kurlander were investigated, charged, and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement “Harris and Kurlander stole personal property from an immediate family member of a candidate for national political office,”

“They sold the property to an organization in New York for $40,000 and even returned to take more of the victim’s property when asked to do so. Harris and Kurlander sought to profit from their theft of another person’s personal property, and they now stand convicted of a federal felony as a result.”

Prosecutors have said they wanted stricter penalties for Harris, who was a no-show at numerous court appearances. The Department of Justice (DOJ) originally requested six months of home confinement before drastically upping that request to four to 10 months of prison time.

Harris cited obligations to her children and family, and her apologies to Ashley Biden, as a plea toward leniency from the court. She also reportedly made note of how she’s been treated by the media, saying she understands what it’s like to be scrutinized in such a forum.

Harris has also been ordered to pay back the $20,000 she was given for the stolen property.