Politics

'Corrupt': Congresswoman shreds The Hill for publishing conspiracy theories as 'opinion' columns

“I’m not speaking to The Hill anymore. Sorry,” Rep. Jackie Speier announced to one of the site’s senior writers on Friday. Citing the site’s role in advancing baseless claims against former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch—who had just testified for hours—which were embraced by Donald Trump and other members of the right, the California Democrat offered a scathing indictment of how so-called “fake news” is spread.

“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 to Scott Wong, after he identified himself as a senior staff writer for The Hill. “And then it becomes a talking point. And he becomes a nonpartisan commentator. It’s corrupt. It’s just corrupt.” 

But of what, and who, exactly, does Speier speak? That would be John Solomon, whom the New York Times calls “the man Trump trusts for news on Ukraine.” Solomon’s “work” came up a few times during impeachment inquiry testimony this week, most notably during the testimony of Yovanovitch and also former NSC official Fiona Hill.

So who exactly is John Solomon? A Washington-based reporter and Fox News personality who had until recently been working at the politics outlet The Hill, Mr. Solomon, 52, is not well known outside conservative media. But, according to interviews and testimony, his writing and commentary helped trigger the chain of events that are now the subject of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. […]

Mr. Solomon’s work has been endorsed by some of the most influential figures on the right like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and the president, who has highlighted Mr. Solomon’s articles on Twitter.

The spread of Solomon’s work, according to media experts who spoke to the Times, is a near-perfect example of how rightwing media isn’t actually an echo chamber … it’s an ecosystem. Here’s how it works.

“Sean Hannity talks about John Solomon, and then that gets picked up on Rush (Limbaugh)  and (Mark) Levin,” explains Columbia University media historian Nicole Hemmer. “That gives it an authority when (conservative audiences are) hearing it from multiple sources every day.” Citing Solomon’s earlier work at the Associated Press, Hannity was able to present Solomon as “nonpartisan,” and an “investigative reporter.”

Solomon, of course, did little investigating. As Media Matters (MMFA) reported in October, this ecosystem model was fully exploited by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who essentially planted misinformation in service to his orange master. Solomon, of course, also benefited.

Through Solomon, Giuliani injected his disinformation campaign straight into the heart of conservative media — Fox News — with seemingly full knowledge of at least some at Fox. And eventually, Solomon landed a job at the network.

MMFA notes that, beginning in March, Solomon began publishing stories clearly fed to him by Giuliani—45 in a span of six months—which led to a stunning 72 appearances on Fox News—51 of them alongside Sean Hannity, who is easily the network’s loudest CT shrieker. Giuliani did his part to advance the scheme, even praising Solomon’s “reporting” as worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

Meanwhile, as NBC News notes, the State Department was aware of the misinformation campaign—then-Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who testified publicly on Wednesday, called the articles “poppycock.”

Solomon’s manipulative reporting didn’t just start with the massive partnership with Giuliani. Staffers at The Hill began to voice concern about Solomon and his “investigations” just months after he joined the outlet in late 2017, according to reporting from the Washington Post in January 2018. By May, Solomon was re-classified as an “opinion” contributor, which gave him AND The Hill additional legal cover to publish misinformation, much like Fox News hides Hannity—who responded to Yovanovitch’s testimony by mocking her on his radio show—and his ceaseless nonsense under that same umbrella.

The Hill, remarkably, reported on Yovanovitch’s indictment of Solomon and his “reporting,” without a trace of irony, much less remorse. The outlet did note that Solomon, in a statement, stands by all of his work for his former employer.

All of this brings us back to Friday, and Rep. Speier’s rebuke of Wong and The Hill as a whole. After Speier suggested the reporter run and tell the leadership of the site about their exchange, Wong pushed back at the congresswoman. 

“The reporters themselves have made that clear to our leadership as well,” he told her. “There are a lot of dedicated reporters at The Hill who do not share John Solomon’s views.”

Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief of The Hill, has yet to comment on the allegations that his publication spread misinformation, possibly willfully, that undeniably contributed to the destruction of Yovanovitch’s career and the current political crisis that has consumed the nation. A perusal of his Twitter feed shows he typically tweets pleasant farewells to staffers moving on from the outlet, as well as shares a variety of content from the site. No such good tidings or content promotion can be found for Solomon, who, again, departed the site in September after almost two years on staff. Seems a little scrubby, eh?

One of Cusack’s tweets, however, has not aged well at all.

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Some folks on Twitter are challenging people to rethink their impressions of the website.

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Meanwhile, The Hill’s front page, as of this writing, features another “opinion” column, equating resistance to the Trump administration with “unhinged behavior.”




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