Update, 6/9: The New York Times has issued a statement pushing back on Comey’s claims that they were misled by sources close to the FBI’s investigation into whether Russian officials had contact with members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign team.
The Times says they stand by their reporting – that Trump advisers had routine contacts with the Russians – which they believe was substantiated with later articles, both in the Times and in the Washington Post, CNN, and Reuters.
They also said that while could not reach the four officials who provided reporters with the information for the original article, that the sources stand by their accounts.
Former FBI Director James Comey said little to surprise either supporters or critics of the Donald Trump administration in his appearance before Congress Thursday. But his harsh criticism of the mainstream media likely shocked the news organizations that had prepared all week for his “groundbreaking” testimony.
In his statements, Comey re-iterated that he believed Trump was trying to exert influence over the FBI’s investigation into former Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, and that the White House “lied” in its explanation for firing the controversial FBI director. But Comey also corroborated Trump’s account that he was told by Comey he was not under investigation.
But Comey also lashed out at the New York Times and others, like the Washington Post and CNN, who have been eager to publish leaks and scoops, saying the mainstream media is a voracious monster that almost always gets it wrong, particularly when it comes to Russia.
Comey warned Congress that most reporting on the Russia investigation was wrong, and that reporters relying on leaks of classified information had mostly gotten their facts wrong. Bad information, Comey said, gave way to bad stories – and the bad stories have proven to be a problem for the FBI, as it delves into the issue.
“There have been many, many stories based on, well, lots of stuff, but about Russia that are dead wrong,” Comey said.
News outlets from the Washington Post to CNN have relied on these anonymous sources peddling leaked classified documents. While Comey did not mention the outlets by name, anyone familiar with their “scoops,” knows he was likely referring to them – as well as the New York Times, whose reporting Comey challenged directly.
“You talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the New York Times wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians,” Sen. James Risch asked Comey. “And that upset you to the point where you actually went out and surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that. Is that correct?”
Comey responded by taking aim. “All of you know this, maybe the American people don’t. The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters, about writing stories about classified information is that people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on.”
The article, headlined “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence,” Comey said could be characterized as “almost entirely wrong.”
“In the main, it was not true,” he added.
In other words, fake news. The Times says they’re looking into it.
In a different line of questioning, Comey admitted that he intentionally leaked an internal memo he’d written about his awkward, Flynn-centric encounter with the President.
He had a friend pass the memo to the Times in the hopes it would trigger the appointment of a special counsel. He didn’t do it himself, he said, because he was afraid to trigger a feeding frenzy among mainstream news organizations, whose reporters were already stalking his house waiting for any tidbit of information.
“I was worried,” he said. “The media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point, and I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide, and I worried that it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.”
The visual is surprisingly apt.