Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
Recently hired Fox News contributor John Solomon, a key player in President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s disinformation campaign against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, is now facing further ethical scrutiny.
According to a new report from ProPublica, Solomon was involved in an apparent pay-to-play operation at The Hill, involving him courting a conservative group for a six-figure advertising deal and also quoting its director in The Hill’s news content.
In late October 2017, The Hill published a story on the decisive role of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), in the upcoming vote on the Trump administration’s tax bill. The article, authored by two journalists who reported to Solomon, included a quote from the executive director of Job Creators Network, a conservative group that claimed the bill would help small-business owners in Maine.
Soon after, Johanna Derlega, then The Hill’s publisher, wrote two memos to the company’s president, Richard Beckman, worrying that Solomon was tearing down the traditional wall separating the business side and the news coverage. She noted that Solomon had negotiated a nearly $160,000 advertising deal with Job Creators Network, targeting business owners in Maine. Solomon then had a quote from that group’s director inserted in the story.
Solomon “pops by the advertising bullpen almost daily to discuss big deals he’s about to close,” Derlega wrote, adding, “If a media reporter gets ahold of this story, it could destroy us.”
“While I highlight this one example, John has been given the freedom, and possibly financial upside, to work with advertisers while clearly sitting within editorial,” Derlega wrote.
Solomon was eventually removed from the news section of The Hill, with editor-in-chief Bob Cusack writing to the staff in May 2018 that “effective immediately” Solomon would only be an “opinion contributor.”