The shoddy reporting behind new effort to discredit Trump’s accusers

None of the details in recent stories offer proof the women are liars.

President Donald Trump listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Nineteen women have accused the president of the United States of sexual misconduct. The White House’s official position is that all the women are lying, and the president has repeatedly called the allegations “fake news.”

Now, certain members of the media are making a clear effort to discredit the women as well. Splashed across the pages of The Hill on Monday was a piece headlined, “Trump accuser lobbied to be his makeup artist months before her sex assault allegations roiled campaign.” The article was written by Vice President of Digital Video John Solomon.

The story is based on emails that The New York Times reported in May of 2016, but Solomon doesn’t mention that until the 12th paragraph and treats the story as if it were exclusive, breaking news. At the center of the article is Jill Harth, who says Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, and who reached out to Trump in 2015 asking if she could fix his makeup for a television interview, debate, or other campaign event.

“It kills me to see you looking too orange and with white circles under the eyes,” she wrote, criticizing Trump’s infamous faux-tan look. “I will get your skin looking smoother and even toned.”

In the story, Solomon writes that the emails, though publicly reported in May of last year, were given to The Hill recently by “Trump’s lawyers.”

Solomon ran another story about Trump’s accusers last week, headlined, “Exclusive: Prominent lawyer sought donor cash for two Trump accusers.” The story hits lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represented four women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct, for raising money for the women, although Bloom has done so publicly, setting up a GoFundMe for Harth, the makeup artist.

“Jill put herself out there, facing off with Donald Trump. Let’s show her some love,” the GoFundMe page says. “Let’s help Jill get back on her feet.”

The GoFundMe has a goal set at $10,000 and has raised $2,317. Additionally, Solomon reports that Bloom helped secure a donor to help one of the women pay off her mortgage and claims another woman was offered $750,000 but that the woman declined to come forward.

None of the facts Solomon reports in his piece on Monday establish in any way that Trump’s accusers are liars. Harth herself spoke with The Hill about offering to do Trump’s makeup during the campaign, saying she had moved on and wanted to promote her new makeup line. Additionally, Harth only came forward during the campaign after her complaint resurfaced as part of the reporting about Trump’s history with women. Trump said her complaint was “false, malicious and libelous,” and Harth spoke publicly to defend herself.

“Yes, I had moved on but had not forgotten the pain he brought into my life,” Harth told The Hill. “I was older, wiser. Trump was married to Melania and I had hoped he was a changed man.”

But she added that she doesn’t think Trump is a changed man, telling The Hill, “I firmly believe Trump should resign or be investigated and impeached. Leopards don’t change their spots.”

If anyone involved in The Hill’s recent “exposes” deserves to be treated with skepticism, it’s Solomon. In February 2007, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) ran a piece headlined, “John Solomon Gives Us Less Than Meets the Eye — Again.” The piece focused on several recent stories Solomon had worked on, including a series from 2006 in which Solomon tried to tie then Democratic Leader Harry Reid to a shady land deal in Nevada.

“These stories omitted critical details that directly affected how seriously the charges should be taken, and in the end none were serious enough for Reid to be admonished by the Senate ethics committee,” CJR wrote. The piece goes on to outline Solomon’s history of shoddy reporting and recent piece about the Clintons that he published in The Washington Post.

“Another John Solomon special, and another instance when the Post is made to look the fool by publishing what amounts to a back-page brief on the front page, masquerading as serious news,” CJR wrote.

Another CJR piece from 2012, “Something fishy?” details Solomon’s attempts at bringing the Center for Public Integrity into the digital age.

More than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign, but he’s recently come under renewed fire in light of allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), failed Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, and others.

In October, BuzzFeed reported that one Trump accuser, Summer Zervos — who is suing Trump for defamation after he repeatedly called her a “hoax” and claimed Hillary Clinton hired her to slander him — has subpoenaed Trump for any campaign documents pertaining to her accusations. It also requests documents referencing “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”

Despite the mounting allegations, many Democrats who called on Franken to resign have been hesitant to hold Trump to the same standard. Just seven have publicly said Trump should resign over the allegations against him.