Fact Check: Was Hunter Biden Dishonorably Discharged From the Military For Cocaine Use?

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump participates in his first debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. Win McNamee/Getty

The Claim

During the first presidential debate on September 29, President Donald Trump said former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, was dishonorably discharged from the military because of cocaine use.

The Facts

As Joe Biden spoke about his late son, Beau Biden, and his military work, Trump interrupted to ask Biden if he was referring to his son Hunter and said, "Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged, cocaine use." Biden responded with, "None of that is true."

In 2014, Hunter Biden was discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve after a drug test came back positive for cocaine. Hunter Biden's discharge was not dishonorable as Trump claimed, it was administrative as is protocol for a failed drug test.

According to JAG Defense, a military and security clearance law firm, while an administrative discharge is less severe than a court-martial (dishonorable discharge), "it can still have lifelong, significant effects upon one's employability, eligibility for veterans benefits and social standing."

There are several types of administrative discharges and separations one can receive from the U.S. military.

Experts contacted by the Washington Times assume Hunter Biden received one of three separations: honorable, general under honorable conditions, or general under other than honorable. "General under honorable conditions" is the most likely, according to lawyers, according to the Washington Times.

Hunter has not revealed the type of discharge of his separation in February 2014.

The Ruling

Partially True. Although Hunter Biden was discharged from the military because of a positive test for cocaine, his discharge was administrative, not dishonorable.