“I’m Proud Of My Son”: Here’s Why Biden’s Openness About His Son’s Addiction Matters

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images.
The first presidential debate of 2020 was not pretty. But there was at least one heart-warming moment that struck many viewers during what was otherwise a "verbal boxing match." And that was when former Vice President Joe Biden defended his son Hunter against a personal attack by President Donald Trump.
The exchange came after Biden referenced an Atlantic story about Trump allegedly disparaging American service members. He brought up his own son, Beau Biden, and his military service in Iraq. (Beau, a former Delaware attorney general, passed away from cancer in 2015.) 
As Biden called his late son a patriot, Trump retorted: “I don't know Beau," then he pivoted to Hunter, who's long been a target of Trump's. The president's pressuring of the Ukrainian government to gather damaging information about Hunter and his dad ultimately led to Trump's impeachment last year.
"I know Hunter," Trump continued. "Hunter got thrown out of the military... He was dishonorably discharged — for cocaine use," Trump said, as Biden tried to interject. (In 2014, Hunter was discharged, though not dishonorably, after testing positive for cocaine, according NBC News.)
Biden responded with an unequivocal show of support for Hunter: “My son, like a lot of people... had a drug problem,” he said. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I'm proud of my son.”
Biden’s unwavering show of support for Hunter was a moment of humanity in a debate that desperately needed one, and that wasn’t lost on viewers. Many on Twitter came forward in a show of support for the former vice president. 
“I didn't want to let it go by unsaid: Substance use disorders should be met with compassion and care, not stigmatizing language and scorn. By anyone,” tweeted Esther Choo, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. 
Another Twitter user retweeted the sentiment, stating: “As someone who has lost someone they love to addiction, I cannot retweet this loud enough,” J. Trot wrote. “This was so infuriating — and Biden's response was the only thing that needs to be said on the matter: 'I love my son, and I am proud of him for beating his addiction' [sic].” 
AC Shilton, an investigative journalist tweeted, “Normalize being proud of your kids who have overcome addiction,” and Eric Bradner, a CNN national political reporter, noted, “About 20 million Americans have battled addiction. Biden openly acknowledging his son's addiction and embracing his recovery will be meaningful to many.” 
Not everyone agreed that the praise was warranted. One user tweeted: "Reflecting on the debate I keep getting angrier that Biden tried to pull a 'compassionate' 'my son had a drug problem and he's overcome it, I'm proud' while thousands of people sit in prison for drug possession based on his legislation and his running mate's enforcement [sic]."
Having a supportive parent can be a key aspect in recovery, Lawrence Weinstein, MD, Chief Medical Officer of American Addiction Centers, tells Refinery29. “Family support is key,” Dr. Weinstein says. “Encouraging and supporting a child who has worked immensely to turn their life around and lead a new life in recovery can increase the likelihood that they remain sober and possibly prevent them from relapsing.”
And it's heartening to see the Democratic presidential nominee leading by example when it comes to showing support and empathy for those with addiction, Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, executive director of Newport Institute, tells Refinery29.
She adds: “By saying that he was proud of his son, Vice President Joe Biden reinforced the importance of supporting people with addiction without judgment and helped to de-stigmatize this deadly disease.” 

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