The Wall Street Journal has fired chief foreign affairs correspondent Jay Solomon for what the paper called a “breach” and ethical lapses over his involvement with an Iranian-born arms dealer.
Washington Bureau Chief Paul Beckett made the announcement to staff during a hastily called meeting on Wednesday after meeting with senior editors in New York the day before. Beckett did not elaborate on Solomon’s situation, only to say that an upcoming Associated Press investigation would have more details. Beckett took no questions and asked any staffers who knew anything about the situation to come forward, according to multiple sources.
Shortly after the announcement, the Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon published an article that said Solomon was offered a 10 percent stake in a company called Denx LLC by “Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA.” Azima, the article said, was also one of Solomon’s sources for years. Solomon’s involvement was unearthed as part of an AP investigation into Azima, in which the AP obtained a “collection of tens of thousands of emails his lawyers say was stolen by hackers,” which included conversations between Azima and Solomon.
According to the AP, Solomon spent more than a year discussing the business effort with Azima, though it’s not clear from those messages that Solomon took any concrete steps to make the ideas a reality. The hacked messages included one in which Solomon said in October 2014, “Our business opportunities are so promising.”
Solomon, a veteran correspondent who published a book last year about Iran and the “spy games, bank battles and secret deals that reshaped the Middle East,” did not respond to emails seeking comment. But in a statement to the AP, he said he “clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand.”
“I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities. I apologize to my bosses and colleagues at the Journal, who were nothing but great to me,” Solomon said.
“We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon,” the Journal said in a statement. “The allegations raised by this reporting are serious. While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards. He has not been forthcoming with us about his actions or his reporting practices and he has forfeited our trust. Mr. Solomon is no longer employed by The Wall Street Journal.”