Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr., promoted Solomon’s Hill columns via Twitter, and Solomon made several appearances on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to promote his conclusions, which were that Biden, then considered Trump’s top 2020 challenger, had ousted Ukraine’s top prosecutor to head off an investigation into the company that had hired his son.
That allegation has never been proved; indeed, the former Ukrainian prosecutor has recanted it.
In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.
But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.
The columns were roundly criticized as distorted and inaccurate by U.S. diplomats during their testimony before the House’s impeachment hearings.
The Hill, in its review of 14 Solomon columns and related videos about Ukraine, found multiple flaws in his reporting and in the Hill’s own presentation of his work. It said it has attached editor’s notes to the columns to provide “context and/or disclosure that should have been included at the time of his writings” or to “highlight what has been learned” since Solomon’s columns were published.
“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,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.
Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted.
Toensing and DiGenova also appeared frequently on Fox News to promote the Biden-Ukraine narrative that Solomon published.
Solomon also told the Hill he relied on Parnas as a “facilitator” in setting up interviews for his Ukraine columns. At the time, Parnas was working with Giuliani to oust Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Solomon, who left the Hill in the fall to start his own media company, did not return a call seeking comment. But the Hill report noted that he has stood by his columns “to this day.”
Contrary to Solomon’s published assertions, and later Trump’s claims, the Hill investigation acknowledged that Ukrainian officials did not meddle in the 2016 U.S. election. It also acknowledged that one of Solomon’s most important sources, former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko, later recanted allegations reported by Solomon against Yovanovitch.
Trump removed Yovanovitch as ambassador last year, apparently based on Giuliani’s complaints that she was resisting a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens. She later testified at the House impeachment hearings that Trump had pressured the State Department to remove her before her term was complete.
The Hill report criticized the Hill for publishing Solomon’s work in a manner that suggested they were news stories, not opinion columns, which it said potentially confused readers. It also said it failed to insist to Fox News producers that Solomon be identified as an opinion columnist, not as an “investigative journalist,” when he appeared on the network to discuss his work.
It noted Solomon’s “hybrid role” at the Hill — both as a columnist and a sometime reporter on Hill.TV, the publication’s video streaming operation, and that this may have further confused readers about his work.
Among other correctives, the Hill said it has given its top editor, Cusack, “enhanced editorial authority” over all content on its website. It reiterated existing prohibitions about disclosure of sources and against sending out drafts of stories to sources.