There you have it: The legacy of John Solomon, a veteran Washington journalist who served simultaneously as an executive vice president at the Hill and as spinner of a flimsy and tendentious trail of reporting that the real collusion in the 2016 presidential election featured the Democrats and Ukrainian officials. Wrapped up in the Solomon oeuvre are the seeds of the smear against Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was recalled as a result of the campaign. Solomon now serves as a Fox News contributor.
“I just find it reprehensible that any newspaper would just be willing to put that kind of crap out that is not — has no veracity whatsoever, and not check to see if it had any veracity,” Speier said, according to audio reported by Politico’s Michael Calderone. “And then it becomes a talking point. And he becomes a nonpartisan commentator. It’s corrupt. It’s just corrupt.”
When the Erik Wemple Blog reached Wong by phone, he referred us to his supervisor, citing a company policy that the Hill’s reporters shouldn’t speak to reporters.
The diss from Speier is the first instance in the awareness of this blog when a Washington official has penalized the Hill for enabling Solomon’s reign of distortion under its banner. Witness after witness — all of them under oath — has slammed Solomon’s series of articles for containing a tenuous connection to actual events. “It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs,” said George Kent, a senior State Department official, in reference to a key Solomon article from March 2019.
That piece transmitted allegations from then-Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko that Yovanovitch had presented him with a “do not prosecute” list. The New York Times reports that Lutsenko acknowledges that no such list ever existed but claims that Yovanovitch did ask him to go easy on certain individuals “who worked with the embassy on its anti-corruption efforts.” The list was a “fabrication,” Yovanovitch said on Friday. Nor did she tell “Mr. Lutsenko or other Ukrainian officials who they should or should not prosecute.” Solomon cites testimony by Kent acknowledging U.S. attempts to protect anti-corruption organizations as corroboration of his reporting.
For good measure, Yovanovitch denied a rumor — also raised in Solomon’s reporting — that she had bad-mouthed President Trump in Ukraine by saying his orders must be ignored because of his likely impeachment. “I did not and I would not say such a thing. Such statements would be inconsistent with my training as a Foreign Service officer and my role as an ambassador,” said Yovanovitch.
There’ll be no endorsement here of Speier’s action. We’d prefer a world in which public officials accepted all reasonable questions regardless of their provenance. Yet the petit flare-up may serve to shake the leadership of the Hill out of its denial regarding Solomon’s work. Though Solomon departed from the organization earlier this fall — the circumstances of the split remain unclear — he has left behind the stink of a rotten fish in the site’s archives. And it’s wafting into the corridors of Capitol Hill.
In Wong’s exchange with Speier, the reporter stressed that he works on the Hill’s news side, whereas Solomon was an “opinion contributor,” a risible title invented when Solomon’s conspiratorial “news” stories so alienated staffers that they demanded distance from the veteran Washington scribe. According to Calderone, Speier dismissed the distinction. As she should have.
We asked the Hill’s spokesperson what management is doing about the situation. Is the Hill reviewing Solomon’s Ukraine coverage? We will update this post if we receive a response.
Meantime, Solomon isn’t budging. “I stand by each and every one of the columns that I wrote,” Solomon said in a statement — a statement provided to . . . the Hill. Here’s the headline of said Hill story: "Yovanovitch says John Solomon’s columns were used to push false allegations.”