South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg acknowledged during his interviews with police investigators last year that he was reading political articles—including a conspiracy theory-laden piece about Joe Biden—on his phone just before he struck and killed a pedestrian with his car.
Ravnsborg is currently facing three misdemeanor charges, calls from Gov. Kristi Noem to resign, and impeachment proceedings for killing 55-year-old Joseph Boever on the side of a highway last year.
Ravnsborg, who was returning from a political dinner on Sept. 12, initially told police after striking Boever that he thought he’d hit a deer and eventually left the scene of the incident. The following morning, however, Boever’s body was found.
In videos released this week, interrogators can be seen informing the attorney general last September that Boever’s glasses were found inside his vehicle, revealing that the victim’s “face came through your windshield,” contradicting Ravnsborg’s claims that he was unaware he hit a man until the next day.
The newly released videos also show investigators going through the top attorney’s phone records and revealing that Ravnsborg was scanning through websites while driving at night, settling on one article in particular just before he hit Boever.
“At 10:20:49, you were on the Dakota Free Press site,” one investigator told the attorney general, in a clip first flagged by Media Matters research fellow Timothy Johnson. “These are all on your work phone. A minute later, you were on the RealClearPolitics website.”
“And then, about a minute later, this article was pulled up through the Just The News,” the interrogator continued, referencing the site founded by pro-Trump columnist John Solomon.
The investigator, meanwhile, went on to note that the article in question was “about Joe Biden and something to do with China” and that Ravnsborg was on that link up to a minute before the accident, further asking the attorney general if he remembered reading this while driving.
Ravnsborg contended that he remembered “looking at those” but that he then “set his phone down,” prompting the investigator to point out that this activity on his phone occurred only a minute or so before he called 911 to report the accident.
“So the concern being is that before the time of impact, there was a time period that went by before you called 911,” the investigator pushed back. “You had to realize what was going on, come to a stop, get your bearings back about you, get out and look at the damage a little bit, figure out what the hell is going on, figure out where you are, call 911.”
“So it’s reasonable to say that a minute or two minutes passed from impact to when you were on the phone with 911, right? That would be reasonable,” the interrogator concluded.
The article in question, meanwhile, appears to have been a Just The News write-up of a right-wing documentary claiming that then-nominee Biden and his family had a long history of self-enrichment in China. During the final months of the 2020 election, President Donald Trump and his media allies attempted to make controversies surrounding Biden’s son Hunter a focal point of the campaign.
The interrogators continued to grill Ravnsborg on his phone usage during the time of the fatal collision. While the attorney general insisted that he didn’t “remember reading the article” and that he believes he set his phone down before hitting Boever, the authorities expanded on the article’s content in more detail and showed he clicked the link to it.
“It’s about some conspiracy with Joe Biden in China,” one investigator noted.
“I guess I would say I glance at headlines a lot. I don’t read articles while I’m driving,” Ravnsborg replied, adding, “I’ve never heard of Just the News.”
Solomon, meanwhile, has been a major player in the pro-Trump media ecosystem for years now. Following a long journalistic career that included stops at The Washington Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and Washington Post, Solomon became the go-to “investigative reporter” for Fox News host Sean Hannity, who repeatedly amplified Solomon’s questionable reporting on the so-called liberal “deep state” plot against Trump.
After his work was slapped with the “opinion” tag following newsroom complaints during his time at The Hill, Solomon eventually branched out on his own, founding the right-wing website Just The News in late 2019.
He also came under scrutiny during Trump’s first impeachment hearing, when it was revealed that he had been in frequent contact with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates. The Hill’s editor-in-chief announced that Solomon’s columns on Ukraine, which helped fuel Giuliani’s Ukrainian dirt-digging efforts on Biden, would be placed under review.
Solomon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.