Solomon-like reporting

The reporter whose story about U.S. Sen. Harry Reid last month generated heavy criticism of Reid was previously described in a professional journalism publication as suspiciously cozy with the Republican National Committee.

Reporter John Solomon of the Associated Press has done a number of negative stories on Reid, but an Oct. 11 AP report by Solomon resulted in a cascade of editorials and cartoons attacking the Nevada senator, prompting Reid to call Solomon a “hit man.” The story described Reid as earning $1.1 million on land he owned through a limited liability partnership. The story made it all sound fairly lurid, but the only thing it actually accused him of doing wrong was failing to declare the income on his congressional disclosure.

An alert Nevada Republican Party sent the story out to newspapers in the state eight minutes after the AP released it.

In Reno after the land story appeared, Reid said, “They have assigned someone full-time in the RNC to work on me, and this is the best they could come up with. This is written by someone who has been a hit man for the RNC.”

It turns out that Reid’s not the only one who suspects so.

In March 2004, Thomas Lang at the Columbia Journalism Review pointed to suspicious similarities between a Solomon story on John Kerry and a Republican National Committee report. The magazine called Solomon’s work “stenography” rather than reporting.

CJR is published by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is considered the leading publication among the small number of journals that scrutinize the journalism industry, professional ethics and other journalism issues.

“While Solomon does add to the RNC’s work with a statement from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., expressing support for Kerry,” CJR reported, “his report is a clear demonstration of the influence opposition research is already having on coverage of the campaign.”

In November 2005, Solomon cowrote a story that said Reid had received donations “related to [lobbyist Jack] Abramoff.” In fact, none of Reid’s contributions came from Abramoff. All the contributions cited by Solomon were contributions from Abramoff clients, not from Abramoff. Solomon’s stories have consistently failed to make the distinction.

In February 2006, Solomon reported dozens of “contacts” between Abramoff’s office and Reid’s office but didn’t say who initiated the contacts. One Abramoff aide later said it was a case of him contacting Reid’s office, not the other way around. Nevertheless, the story prompted a round of attacks against Reid.

In May, Solomon incorrectly reported that Reid had accepted free tickets valued at hundreds of dollars each for three boxing matches from the Nevada Athletic Commission. That story recounted in the online Wikipedia entry on Reid, which called it “erroneous.”

On the land story, a Chicago Tribune blogger wrote, “Such [land] transfers are very common and exceedingly legal. Indeed, many lawyers recommend the step to investors and small business people as a way to shield their personal wealth from liability, as in the event someone is injured or killed on the real estate.”

The liberal blogosphere seems to have reached a conclusion about Solomon. Americablog has headlined an item, “AP’s John Solomon is obsessed with Harry Reid.” Metafilter asked, “What does John Solomon have against Harry Reid?” And Daily Kos has a “John Solomon Watch.”