The Hill criticizes John Solomon's Ukraine columns, implements new policies after lengthy review
Posted February 19, 2020 11:21 a.m. EST
CNN — The Hill on Wednesday released the findings of its months-long review into the work of John Solomon, the former executive at the outlet whose columns pushing right-wing conspiracy theories about Ukraine played a pivotal role in President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry.
The findings of the investigation, which were announced in a memo posted online, were critical of both the work Solomon did while he was at The Hill and the editorial process that allowed the columns to be published.
The Hill said it had added editor's notes to Solomon's work on Ukraine.
"In some columns, there was context and/or disclosure that should have been included at the time of his writings," The Hill said. "In other cases, these editor's notes highlight what has been learned since Solomon's columns were initially published."
The Hill also acknowledged fault handling Solomon's work and said that its investigation has made it "reconsider some policies" and "reiterate guidelines" that were already in place.
Some of the action being taken included giving Editor-In-Chief Bob Cusack "enhanced editorial authority over all content on The Hill.com." Cusack previously did not have oversight over Solomon's work published by The Hill's opinion vertical.
Other action included avoiding the "blending of reporting and opinion columns going forward," which The Hill noted that Solomon's work attempted to do.
Cusack first announced the review of work done by Solomon, who is currently a Fox News contributor, on November 18, 2019. Solomon's work has been strongly disputed, including by witnesses who testified during the House impeachment hearings.
Columns by Solomon, who has defended his work but did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday morning, helped shape public perception of Joe Biden's foreign policy dealings in Ukraine, especially among Trump supporters.
The columns helped trigger the chain of events that led to Trump asking the recently-elected Ukrainian president to probe Biden and his son Hunter. And multiple witnesses referenced the reporting in their Congressional testimonies disputing the veracity of Solomon's columns.
One, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, said of one of Solomon's stories, "I think all the key elements were false." Pressed further on the matter by Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, Vindman said, "I haven't looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right."
The findings of The Hill's investigation were at times exceedingly critical of Solomon's work. The Hill said the central idea Solomon advanced about Ukraine and Biden was flawed in many ways and "disputed by officials in both Kyiv and Washington."
The Hill also noted that for his work Solomon relied on his attorneys, Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, without disclosing his relationship with them.
"Pressed on why he did not disclose in his writings that Toensing was his attorney, Solomon initially denied he had quoted her while she served as his attorney and then said he would look into it and that if he did write about her, he should disclose the relationship," The Hill's findings said. "As part of this review, The Hill is adding disclosures ... that should have been made at the time of publication."
The Hill additionally raised concerns about Solomon's reliance on Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer who went to Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and his contact with Lev Parnas, a former associate of Giuliani involved in the Ukraine scandal who has since been charged with campaign finance violations.
"The true nature and extent of Parnas's role in Solomon's work remain unclear but potentially troubling," The Hill said in its findings. "While Solomon has insisted that Parnas was simply facilitating contacts or arranging interviews in his native Ukraine, the number of alleged contacts or apparent references to Solomon in emails, text messages and other materials released by Parnas to congressional investigators raises questions about his involvement."
The Hill acknowledged it could have done better handling Solomon's work. The outlet said, "While Solomon's columns on Ukraine were labeled as opinion, they read like news stories." The Hill noted that when Solomon appeared on Fox News to promote his stories, he was "not typically labeled an opinion writer." The Hill said it "should have" contacted television producers to request a proper label.
"There should be clarity and distinction between opinion writers and news reporters, and opinion columns should not read like news stories," The Hill said. "The Hill will consider and adopt changes in presentation to differentiate opinion and news more substantially than the current methods."