It sounds like a Scandal plot, or maybe just a nightmare. But it’s true—the diary of Ashley Biden, President Joe Biden’s daughter, was “passed around a Trump fundraiser in Florida at the home of a donor” ahead of the 2020 presidential election, The New York Times reported. Biden, 40, had been keeping the diary during the period when she was seeking treatment for addiction.
According to the Times, the right-wing group Project Veritas went on to buy Biden’s diary for $40,000. Now the group is undergoing a federal criminal investigation concerning how it obtained the diary. The organization has denied that it broke the law. The right-wing blog National File went on to publish the entries from the diary. The story was first reported by the Times in November 2021, but new details are emerging as the criminal investigation continues.
The idea that a private citizen could have her most personal thoughts seized and used as a political tool touches a nerve with anyone who has ever kept a diary or journal. But taking in the details of the story, it’s hard to ignore a pattern that emerges: that of the women who helped make the diary public. Yes, this is a story of a right-wing group founded by a man, working to elect another man, who devoted much of his time in the Oval Office to robbing women of rights over their own bodies. But it’s also a story about the women who worked to help Trump gain office.
It’s the story of a poor woman, who was looking to sell the diary to pay for a custody battle. A rich woman, who learned of the diary and connected it to donors at her Trump fundraiser. The rich woman’s daughter, who tipped off Project Veritas about the diary. When we speak about right-wing power and the people who seek to deny women bodily autonomy, we tend to focus on straight white men. We sometimes act like women are rarely complicit in political actions that hurt other women, as if American politics are boys versus girls. The Ashley Biden diary story is a case study in how women sometimes work as handmaidens to Republican men. Sometimes feminists make the argument that any woman having power is a good thing for women everywhere. The stories of these women show what a simplistic, flawed argument that really is.
So how did Ashley Biden’s personal diary become a political tool? Let’s go over the details.
How did the diary get into the wrong hands?
According to reporting from the Times, Ashley Biden had been living at a friend’s home in Florida for several months during the pandemic. When she left, she stored some personal items at the house, including the diary, with the plan of returning for her things in a few months.
In July 2020, a new tenant moved in to the house—Aimee Harris, a single mother of two. In August, the Times said, Harris told a friend, Robert Kurlander, that she had found the diary. Harris, a Trump supporter, planned to sell it with Kurlander’s help. She hoped, according to reports, to use the funds to pay the legal fees for her custody dispute. Kurlander contacted Elizabeth Fago, the owner of a group of nursing homes and a Trump donor. In the first week of September, just about two months before the election, Harris and Kurlander joined guests at Fago’s home for a Trump fundraiser, bringing the diary. Donald Trump Jr. was present at the fundraiser, though the Times reports that it is “unclear” who at the party saw the diary.