Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.
The Hill on Wednesday published its internal review of former columnist John Solomon’s role in the Trump-Ukraine scandal, in which he pushed a series of smear narratives against key Democratic figures — smears that have continued in Solomon’s new role as a Fox News contributor, and which that network’s own internal research division knows to be false.
Not that the review itself can just easily wash away The Hill’s sins. The article states: “This review was conducted independently by The Hill’s news staff under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack.” While The Hill perhaps means it was done “independently” of the opinion section, where Solomon officially worked, the supervision of the paper’s editor-in-chief and the involvement of its own news staff would also mean it’s not really “independent” — which would have required some kind of outside oversight.
The report is also flawed in that it only focuses on Solomon’s work in the Ukraine story — not branching out into other stories in which he clearly committed the same ethical transgressions. For example, the connection between Solomon’s reporting and his attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing — a point of criticism in The Hill’s review — was also apparent in his columns pushing the Uranium One narrative. (Solomon had cited an anonymous source for the anti-Clinton conspiracy theory, who turned out to be another one of Toensing’s clients, lobbyist William Douglas Campbell.)
National security reporter Marcy Wheeler noted another missing line of inquiry:
Despite these shortcomings, the report is still quite damning of both Solomon’s behavior and The Hill’s longtime tolerance of it.
The review explains how Solomon misused his official title as an opinion columnist, while seemingly offering up investigative news reports — and The Hill didn’t do anything about it, thus creating an opportunity for Fox News to further spread Solomon’s stories around:
While Solomon’s columns on Ukraine were labeled as opinion, they largely read like news stories. Adding to the potential confusion between opinion and news, Solomon was identified as “an award-winning journalist” in his column tagline. When appearing on television to discuss his Ukraine columns, Solomon was not typically labeled an opinion writer by the broadcast programs. The Hill did not contact television producers to label Solomon as an opinion columnist. It should have.
Lending further support to an impression that the columns were more like news stories, rather than opinion columns, Solomon’s Ukraine columns were longer than typical opinion pieces, in many cases contained what could be viewed or was identified by him as original reporting, and stuck to one general topic. This may have suggested to many readers it was an investigative series, which normally resides in the news department, rather than opinion. Solomon’s subsequent appearances on Fox News where he was often identified as an investigative journalist further potentially blurred the distinction between news and opinion in the minds of some readers.
A cursory search on Nexis shows that Hannity and other Fox News hosts have referred to Solomon as an “investigative journalist” or “investigate reporter” over 100 times since January 2018. (Indeed, this point was a bone of contention in the internal Fox News document, as well.)
As for Solomon’s actual columns, The Hill’s review goes into Solomon’s crucial omissions of his sources’ own agendas: “In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation. In other cases, the sources were his own attorneys.”
Those attorneys are diGenova and Toensing, who also have previous legal ties to President Donald Trump and have made over 100 appearances on Fox News, though they are currently missing from the network. (Solomon has also revealed recently that diGenova and Toensing introduced him to indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.)
The review also further exposes Solomon’s role in working with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who ran a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. At one point, the report uses some rather dry and legalistic language to call out Solomon’s dishonesty about his ties to Giuliani, Parnas, diGenova, and Toensing:
Solomon has said the notion of Giuliani being a principal source for his Ukraine columns is a “bogus narrative.” In November 2019, Solomon said Giuliani was “never an on-the-record, off-the-record or on-background source for any of those stories.”
Since the publication of Solomon’s columns, Parnas delivered Ukraine-related communications to Congress that show repeated contact among Parnas, Giuliani, Solomon, and Victoria Toensing of the Washington law firm of diGenova & Toensing, among others.
Solomon need not worry too much about fallout from The Hill’s review, thanks to his new gig at Fox News. After all, the reporting earlier this month on the Fox News internal research document showed that his new employers were fully aware that he had “played an indispensable role in the collection and domestic publication of elements of this disinformation campaign.” But the network continued to run with his stories as part of its overall push to aid Trump throughout the impeachment process, and Solomon is still appearing there to this very day.
And hey, at least The Hill went to the trouble of investigating some of the disinformation they’d been peddling. Meanwhile, it’s been years and we’re still waiting on that promised review of Fox’s own lies about the Seth Rich case.