Angered by the testimony of ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, California Rep. Jackie Speier upbraided a reporter for The Hill and ripped the outlet’s publication of columns by John Solomon, the conservative journalist whose work is at the center of what Yovanovitch described as a “smear campaign” against her.
“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,” said Speier, a Democrat serving in her seventh term in the House, according to audio of the exchange reviewed by POLITICO. “And then it becomes a talking point. And he becomes a nonpartisan commentator. It’s corrupt. It’s just corrupt.”
Speier launched into her critique of The Hill after fielding a question from its senior staff writer Scott Wong about who her dream witness would be at the impeachment proceedings. She said Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Next, she inquired about Wong's company affiliation, which he provided.
“I’m not speaking to The Hill anymore. Sorry,” Speier said, adding that it was because of the publication of Solomon’s work. Wong reminded her Solomon’s writing was on the opinion side of The Hill. (It was moved last year following complaints from some in the newsroom.)
Speier suggested it didn’t matter whether Solomon was identified as an opinion columnist or not because his interview earlier this year with Yuriy Lutsenko, who was then Ukraine’s top prosecutor, resembled a news story.
Solomon reported claims in March that Yovanovitch had privately bad-mouthed Trump and that she had given Lutsenko a do-not-prosecute list, which the State Department called an “outright fabrication.” Yovanovitch denied both claims under oath on Friday and Lutsenko has told the New York Times that a list didn’t exist. Solomon has also pushed the conspiracy theory that former Vice President Joe Biden intervened in Ukraine to support his son Hunter Biden’s business interests.
Solomon said in a statement to POLITICO: "I stand by each and every one of the columns that I wrote and that The Hill (both editors and lawyers) carefully vetted. All facts in those stories are substantiated to original source documents and statements."
Solomon had previously defended his reporting last month after ProPublica revealed that he worked closely with Giuliani associates.
Speier urged Wong to take her concerns back to the Hill's leadership.
“The reporters themselves have made that clear to our leadership as well,” Wong said. “There are a lot of dedicated reporters at The Hill who do not share John Solomon’s views.”
Speier said it was “shocking” that The Hill “would have someone engaged in that paper that would conduct themselves in that manner and that he would be allowed to do so for as long as he has.”
The Hill editor-in-chief Bob Cusack did not immediately respond for comment.
Solomon, a former reporter at mainstream news outlets like The Washington Post and The Associated Press, has become a conservative media star and promoted his Hill columns on Fox News. He appeared 72 times on Fox News and Fox Business during a six-month period, with more than 50 of those stops on Sean Hannity’s primetime show, according to progressive watchdog Media Matters.
During Friday’s hearing, Daniel Goldman, the lead Democratic attorney, highlighted President Donald Trump amplifying Solomon’s work in a March tweet, which also tagged Hannity and Fox News.
“John Solomon: As Russia Collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges.” @seanhannity @FoxNews,” the president wrote. Goldman noted that Donald Trump Jr. promoted allegations against Yovanovitch days later in a tweet that labeled her a "joker."
Solomon left The Hill in September and joined Fox News as a contributor weeks later.